Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hence Why ≠ That’s Why

Paul from Mancelona, Michigan, called in to decry a phrase that he heard. It is the coupling of hence and why as if it meant that’s why: “It was raining; hence why I got wet.” I don’t think that I have encountered that use before. It screams redundancy, as in the reason why.

Hence is used in a couple of ways. First, it can mean away from this place or away from this time: “Get thee hence,” or “We’ll meet again two weeks hence.” More relevant to the example above, it can mean therefore or as a result. So we could say “It was raining, which is why I got wet,” or “It was raining; hence, I got wet.” But I certainly wouldn’t combine hence and why.

The only legitimate pairing that I can think of would place them physically side by side, separated by a comma, but not married in meaning. “I hunger for justice. Hence, why the entire Madoff family isn’t in jail [Subj.] / is a mystery to me [Pred].”

In that example, hence is an adverb meaning therefore; it signals the beginning of a conclusion based on the prior statement. In the unit why the entire Madoff family isn’t in jail, the word why is a conjunction identifying the start of a dependent clause that acts, in its entirety, as the subject of the second is.

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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