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Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  7,869 ratings  ·  1,438 reviews
A linguistically informed look at how our digital world is transforming the English language.

Language is humanity's most spectacular open-source project, and the internet is making our language change faster and in more interesting ways than ever before. Internet conversations are structured by the shape of our apps and platforms, from the grammar of status updates to th
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Riverhead Books
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May Helena Plumb Yes - I think a lot of teenagers would particularly appreciate it because it takes their online language use seriously, rather than dismissing it! (It…moreYes - I think a lot of teenagers would particularly appreciate it because it takes their online language use seriously, rather than dismissing it! (It will also give them insight into how other people use the internet differently than them...)(less)
Verla Yes. Gretchen discusses everything about this topic in the context of linguistic concepts you will encounter in any study of language.

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Language developed very slow, ugh, ah, and is accelerating faster and faster. Hm, everything seems to do this nowadays. Take all those funny ancient, medieval, renaissance texts and how entertainingly cute they wrote, talked, and grammared, isn´t it lovely.
For a very long time the control over punctuation, grammar, spelling, was in the hand of the few ever so smart intellectuals that decided what was right and wrong, what a correct standard is and what an evil, wrong, stinking, different approa
Aug 22, 2019 is currently reading it
But what I really want is a book that explain’s why nobody know’s how to use apostrophe’s anymore 😑
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I find the evolution of languages fascinating so as soon as I saw the cover/title of this book, I knew it was one I'd enjoy.  The author Gretchen McCulloch is a linguist who studies internet language.  In this book she shows us how English has transformed since and because of the internet.  She explores memes, hashtags, emoticons, and emojis, showing how we use them in place of gestures and facial expressions in our written online language.  Indeed, we communicate so much through non-verbal meth ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The first book I've ever felt was written for ME: an Internet kid of a particular micro-generation, interested in examining my online life with as much respect and rigor as we apply to traditional literature and academic studies. I LOVED this book. I'll be buying copies for my dad, my little sister, and people of many ages in between. ...more
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I ended up being a little let down by this book. Maybe it was just that I was expecting something different. I was really hoping for more talk about current linguistics/language from the internet. It was heavily about the history of the internet, which definitely served a purpose and was necessary to understand the evolution of our language with the internet. But there seemed to be little actual discussion on the interesting linguistic aspects of the internet and more of a long history lesson. T ...more
K.J. Charles
Interesting analysis of how we speak and type on the internet, in terms of social and often age groupings and the different meanings applied. It is absolutely fascinating how we've collectively managed to develop a written language that conveys tone (as in meaning) for pretty much the first time in the history of language, even if the ways of doing it could be considered a bit ~special~. How much you enjoy this will depend on your appetite for linguistic nerdery. I wasn't that interested in the ...more
Donna Backshall
I was so excited to finally get this audiobook on loan from my library. I felt like I'd been waiting for months, which of course is a great sign. I love linguistics and this is a popular book, so I was expecting a good solid read.

Well, it's a weird book. Informative, yes, but also weird.

It's weird because McCulloch uses words like "wonderfully" and "innovative" to praise EVERY SINGLE CHANGE that has been made to communication in The Internet Age. Fine, I'm all for progress and optimism too, but
In brief: A linguist looks at the ways the internet has changed English, with digressions into internet culture as a whole.

Full disclosure: This was a reading copy which I received through work, with the expectation that I would like it enough to review it and then order it for stock. This book is out July 23, 2019.

Thoughts: This was a really interesting read, containing a lot of stuff I knew without knowing and also stuff I hadn’t thought about. It’s also a good, well-structured introduction to
I’m surprised by how fascinating I found this: I’m a late adopter when it comes to technology (I’m still resisting a smartphone) and I haven’t given linguistics a thought since that one class I took in college, but it turns out that my proofreader’s interest in the English language and my daily use of e-mail and social media were enough to make it extremely relevant. The Montreal linguist’s thesis is that the Internet popularized informal writing and quickly incorporates changes in slang and cul ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
What can I say-- nerdy books about language are my thing :). This was a really insightful analysis of how internet communications have evolved over time. The highlights for me were her dissection of different "generations" of internet users (e.g. "old internet" vs. "full internet," etc.), as well as the emoji chapter. This is one of the books that ends up having a lot of descriptive power, and I appreciated how it made me more aware of why I talk the way I do online ...more
Niklas Pivic
This is as much a guide into the world of how living with internet—and all device-interconnected glories around it—has changed language and the ways in which we think, as it is a linguistic analysis into how language has become intertwined with internet.

An example of when digital communications can be analysed:

Even keysmash, that haphazard mashing of fingers against keyboard to signal a feeling so intense that you can’t even type real words, has patterns.

A typical keysmash might look like “asdlj
Woman Reading
Whatever else is changing for good or for bad in the world, the evolution of language is neither the solution to all of our problems nor the cause of them. It simply is.

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch has a non-judgemental and highly enthused view of how writing on the internet has evolved and how it can be interpreted, misunderstood and be exclusionary. Because Internet reads like a multi-disciplinary approach from both cultural anthropologist and social historians' forays into the wi
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a lot of fun, but more in a nostalgia sense than a learning-things sense. I, apparently, am an Old Internet Person (and the daughter of an Old Internet Person; my father was online before I was, because he started out on arpanet), and unlike the Old Internet People described in the book, I’ve been trucking right along through most social media platforms and linguistic changes. (McCulloch says most people’s linguistic patterns are set in adolescence. That is definitely not the experience ...more
I found this author’s joy in her research to be contagious. She obviously loves linguistics and her interactions on the internet. In these days when there is so much contention and negativity on the interwebz, this is great to read.

As she points out, the use of slang presupposes that the writer knows the correct usage that they are deviating from and therefore is enjoying the process. And there have been panics about telephone use, among other technologies. Language evolves and someday in the no
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
in hindsight it was maybe not the best idea to listen to the audiobook of a book about written language
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating research about the evolution of online language and the differences between generations. I am not a digital native and so I always try to use good grammar in texts and tweets and I know that the cool young kids have a different way of interacting with it than I do. It was really nice to have the data to make sense of it. McCulloch has the coolest research agenda ever.
Peter Tillman
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book by a linguist about language on the internet. It's a bit scattershot, but I ended up reading, and liking, most of it. Her enthusiasm is infectious -- though we do get linguist-type stuff like (p. 138) when she "almost fell off her chair" on figuring out the use of the tilde in internet sarcasm. And the ~*~sparkle~*~ ecosystem! Heh.

My favorite chapter was her chapter on Internet People. By her classification, I fall into the tail end of the Old Internet group, from my Usenet activity
。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚ 4.5 stars 。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚

Brilliant and joyful examination of language in the age of the internet. You'll learn something and you'll enjoy the ride. I think most people would find this interesting, but all you language/internet nerds out there will love it.
As an applied linguist and Full Internet Person according to the standards of this book, I adored this. It made me laugh out loud and constantly rethink why I communicate the way I do when I’m online with my frands 🥰💕 and why we can share very specific memes with each other and it’s like we’ve exchanged a knowing glance across the room.

This was pretty accessible to read, although I can see a lot of the humor going over the heads of people who don’t internet it up every day. There is a lot about
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Because Internet' is a highly entertaining examination of changing linguistic norms in the internet age. It hits that sweet spot between accessible writing and analytical rigour impressively well throughout. Successive chapters provoked a lot of thoughts about my own communication habits and those of my friends, family, colleagues, students, and peer group. It also gave me a much appreciated explanation as to why people use emojis, which I didn't previously understand the point of. They have rh ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Linguist Gretchen McCulloch has written a thought-provoking and passionate defense of the rise of internet language. I don’t share her enthusiasm for made-up spelling, sarcasm tildes, emoji, odd CAPITALIZATION, and the abandonment of standard grammar.* But I found the book interesting, while remaining bemused at her excitement over the devolution of language from Shakespeare’s sonnets to ttyl texting.

Language is constantly evolving, reflecting the influx of new ideas, the melding of different cu
Neil R. Coulter
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: editing, non-fiction

Finally—an excellent book about internet-influenced language change! Other books on this topic (I’m thinking especially of Emmy Favilla’s dreary A World Without “Whom”) bothered me, but Gretchen McCulloch has triumphed. And the reason is simple: other authors in this area convey a sarcastic, smirky, mocking attitude toward the subject and at least some of their readers. By contrast, McCulloch writes from deep joy and delight, welcoming the reader as a friend who either already shares her gleefu
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you have ever taken a linguistics class, skip chapter 1. If you used the internet in the early 2000s, skip chapter 2.

The other chapters have some interesting tidbits but no thread or narrative connecting them. The writing is largely observational, not insightful. And if you are aware of how people use emojis, memes and the like, none of it is new information.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Skimmed mainly, reading more in depth as something caught my eye. Overall, interesting and informative.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
As a Full Internet Person and a language nerd (who probably would have studied linguistics had it been an option at her university), this book is RIGHT up my linguistic internet alley!

I have been following Gretchen’s blog All Things Linguistic for years, and to see all her hard work culminate in this book is amazing!

Have you ever had to explain to your parents why their texts come across as passive aggressive? Have you tried and failed to explain a meme to a Semi Internet Person?? Have you ever
Leo Walsh
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
I heard BECAUSE INTERNET's author Gretchen McCulloch interviewed on NPR regarding this book. She was interesting, talking about how internet communications have changed the English language forever. She had serious academic credentials, so I listened.

That interview was so good, I watched her Ted talk. Also interesting, albeit less insightful than the interview.

This book is the weakest in the line. I think my big objection is her REFUSING to treat text and other online communications for what t
Oleksandr Zholud
This is non-fic collection of ways how languages (chiefly English, but others are mentioned) change due to the internet. I read is as a part of Monthly reads in May 2020 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

When ordinary people talk about how internet affected our writing communications, they usually grumble about bad grammar, incomplete sentences and general lack of “correct” writing style. Linguists see it differently: for them this is a new amazing era, where for the first time in history we can s
Robin Bonne
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Even though I lived through much of internet culture, this chronological blast through the past brought back a lot of memories. Language has been changing and this thoroughly researched book details how the internet impacts the way we write, speak, and communicate with one another.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I award this book five stars and all the internets; A++, would read again. (Very linguistics, much awesome, wow)
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
~* tHiS bOoK tOtAlLy RoX mY sOx *~

How have the ways we type and communicate online changed over the years? What’s the difference between a person who started going online in the early 90s compared with someone who grew up with social media in the 2010s? Because Internet is a really fascinating look at linguistics online and how the English language has changed over time because of the internet.

I think the thing I appreciated most about this book is that the author Gretchen McCulloch never feels
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Gretchen McCulloch is an internet linguist!

She writes the Resident Linguist column at Wired (and formerly at The Toast). McCulloch has a master’s in linguistics from McGill University, runs the blog All Things Linguistic, and cohosts Lingthusiasm, a podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics. She lives in Montreal, but also on the internet.


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“Like the big collaborative projects of the internet, such as Wikipedia and Firefox, like the decentralized network of websites and machines that make up the internet itself, language is a network, a web. Language is the ultimate participatory democracy. To put it in technological terms, language is humanity's most spectacular open source project.” 12 likes
“IBM experimented with adding Urban Dictionary data to its artificial intelligence system Watson, only to scrub it all out again when the computer started swearing at them.” 9 likes
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