Etymology Grammar Linguistics Usage

Being as it’s a George Clooney film?

Q: Please explain how “being as” came into being in this online comment about George Clooney in The American: “He vows his next hit will be his last, but being as this is a feature length movie that was not very likely to  happen.”

A: We’ve written before on the blog about using “being as” and related phrases in the sense of “because” or “since,” and we’ve noted that it’s generally not considered good English.

But perhaps we were a bit too dismissive of a usage that dates back to Shakespeare and earlier.

Although it’s not considered standard English now, the usage is common in US dialects, especially in the South, the lower Midwest, and New England, says the Dictionary of American Regional English.

And as we’ve mentioned, this use of “being” has a long history, either standing alone or in phrases like “being as,” “being that,” and “being as how.”

The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary for “being as” in this sense is from George Hellowes’s 1574 translation of Antonio Guevara’s Familiar Epistles, a collection of letters in Spanish:

“Being as we are fallen into the most grievous sinnes, we do live, and go so contented, as though we had received of God a safeconduit to be saved.”

A more familiar example is this comment by Leonato from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (1599): “Being that I flow in grief, / The smallest twine may lead me.”

And Jane Austen, in an 1813 letter, has this comment about Robert Southey’s The Life of Nelson:

“I am tired of Lives of Nelson, being that I never read any. I will read this, however, if Frank is mentioned in it.” (Jane’s brother Frank was an admiral.)

DARE, the regional dictionary, has many published references for the usage in modern times, including this one from a 1955 letter by Flannery O’Connor:

“While I was in NC I heard somebody recite a barroom ballad, I don’t remember anything but the end but beinst you all are poets I will give it to you.”

Is the usage legit? Well, we wouldn’t use it, unless we were trying to be folksy (as in the O’Connor letter), but here’s another opinion:

­“It is clear that the conjunction being survives dialectally in current English,” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says. “If it—or its compounds—is part of your dialect, there is no reason you should avoid it.”

Merriam-Webster’s adds this warning: “You should be aware, however, that when you use it in writing it is likely to be noticed by those who do not have it in their dialects.”

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