Friday, January 20, 2023

The foggy, foggy "due"

Perhaps you were taught, as I was, to cringe when due to is used as a preposition, viz., Due to unfounded objections by twentieth-century commentators, the usage has been stigmatized as vulgar and ungrammatical. You would have been told to use owing to or because of instead. 

You would have been taught that due is an adjective, not a preposition, and in proper use follows a linking verb: The prohibition was due to unfounded objections by twentieth-century commentators, due being an adjective referring back to prohibition

Wilson Follett condemned the prepositional sense in Modern American Usage, saying that it is shunned by "everyone who cares about workmanship" and deploring that Webster's Second (yes, the sacred Webster's Second) finds that it is "in common and reputable use." 

In Garner 5 Bryan Garner notes the traditional view but concedes that the prepositional sense is ubiquitous.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, tracing the history of the dispute, points out that many people who concede that prepositional due to is established in the language still remark that it is informal or disparaged by some people; thus "due to has entered the folklore of usage." 

MWDEU concludes: "In our judgment, due to is as impeccable as owing to. ... There has never been a grammatical ground for objection, although the the objection formulated in the early part of this [twentieth] century persists in the minds of some usage commentators."

And Jeremy Butterfield, in Fowler's 4, says that despite "the tut-tutting of last-ditch pedants," the prepositional sense of due to "is now part of the natural language of the 21c." 

There you have it: a usage distinction invented out of thin air a century ago, promulgated in a series of usage manuals and classroom diktats, and enforced by platoons of copy editors wasting their time on dog whistle edits,  now finally, blessedly, fades away. 

You still object? Get a life.