Title: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
Author: Gretchen McCulloch
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-0735210936, $26; Paperback: ISBN: 978-0735210943, $17
Imprint: New York: Riverhead Books, 2019
Because Internet is for anyone who’s ever puzzled over how to punctuate a text message or wondered where memes come from. It’s the perfect book for understanding how the internet is changing the English language, why that’s a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are.
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 the protocols of comments and @replies. Linguistically inventive online communities spread new slang and jargon with dizzying speed. What’s more, social media is a vast laboratory of unedited, unfiltered words where we can watch language evolve in real time.
Even the most absurd-looking slang has genuine patterns behind it. Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explores the deep forces that shape human language and influence the way we communicate with one another. She explains how your first social internet experience influences whether you prefer “LOL” or “lol,” why ~sparkly tildes~ succeeded where centuries of proposals for irony punctuation had failed, what emoji have in common with physical gestures, and how the artfully disarrayed language of animal memes like lolcats and doggo made them more likely to spread.
“McCulloch is such a disarming writer—lucid, friendly, unequivocally excited about her subject—that I began to marvel at the flexibility of the online language she describes, with its numerous shades of subtlety.” —The New York Times
“McCulloch’s book is a good start in guiding readers to consider the wild language of the internet as a thing of wonder—a valuable feature, not a bug.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[An] effervescent study of how the digital world is transfiguring English. . . . [McCulloch’s] almost political thesis—the more voices, the better—rebukes both the élitism of traditional grammar snobs and the cliquishness of, say, Tumblr. It’s a vision of language as one way to make room for one another.” —The New Yorker
“Rather than obsessing about what the internet is doing to language, [Because Internet] largely focuses on what can be learned about language from the internet. . . . McCulloch’s book is about the birth of a new medium.” —The Economist
“A well-researched retort to grumpy grammarians who think technology is turning kids into lazy, inarticulate drivelers.” —Time
“Lively and wide-ranging” —NPR