Let’s end the debate on “since” vs. “because”

QZSue sends this James J. Kilpatrick article on why “since” should not be used to mean “because”:

Yes, it is true that every standard dictionary informs us that “since” may be employed in the sense of “because.” I beg you, fergit it!

What the usual suspects do not say is that the usage is slovenly, sloppy, careless, unthinking, and likely to confuse the casual reader. The practice cannot be condoned, even when it is employed by a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is today’s rant: In an opinion in June 2005, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “I would hold that, since there is no clear statement of coverage, Title III does not apply …” He meant ” because there is no clear statement …” In an opinion in a criminal case just a year ago, Scalia wrote of terminology that is misleading “since we hold that in all capital cases …” Again, he meant, “because we hold …”

Although I have to give Mr. Kilpatrick props for holding the Supreme Court justices up as paragons of poor usage (not what they are usually known for), I have to disagree with his hard-line stance on the use of “since.” I think it’s too late in the evolution of the language to force writers to use only “because” to mean “because.”

The role of editors is to make sure that readers understand what authors mean to say, not to dogmatically enforce (sometimes arcane) rules of usage. And since readers easily understand since to mean because (see, I just did it), what’s the harm in using it?

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