STARRED REVIEW
August 2019

Because Internet

By Gretchen McCulloch

A Montreal-based internet linguist and columnist for Wired, McCulloch begins with a quick primer on linguistics, the study of language. “The continued evolution of language is neither the solution to all our problems nor the cause of them,” she writes. “It simply is. You never truly step into the same English twice.” Since the internet records what people post, tweet and share, it’s a good place to study recent changes in informal language. 

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Do you worry that the internet and its tools—social media, emojis, memes—are wrecking your kids’ spoken and written language? Or that the same thing might be happening to you? Gretchen McCulloch is here to reassure readers that no, future humans won’t communicate solely by emojis and GIFs. What’s more, the internet has made us all into writers, melding writing and informality. In Because Internet, McCulloch shows how internet language, like any other language, has evolved into its current form and how it continues to change. 

A Montreal-based internet linguist and columnist for Wired, McCulloch begins with a quick primer on linguistics, the study of language. “The continued evolution of language is neither the solution to all our problems nor the cause of them,” she writes. “It simply is. You never truly step into the same English twice.” Since the internet records what people post, tweet and share, it’s a good place to study recent changes in informal language. 

McCulloch is fascinating on emojis, those tiny digital smiley faces, hearts and flamenco dancers that we add to texts. Having studied emojis since 2014, she describes her research into the reasons that emojis caught on, showing why emojis and GIFs serve as gestures rather than as a new language. And McCulloch is convincingly reassuring about teen internet use. “Whether they’re spending hours on the landline telephone, racking up a massive texting bill, or being ‘addicted’ to Facebook or MySpace or Instagram, something that teens want to do in every generation is spend a lot of unstructured time hanging out, flirting, and jockeying for status with their peers.” 

Although the concept of internet linguistics might sound dry, McCulloch takes a sprightly approach. She’s funny as well as informative. Because Internet just might lead you to see the internet, and how you (and your kids) use it, in a whole new way. 

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Because Internet

Because Internet

By Gretchen McCulloch
Riverhead
ISBN 9780735210943

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