Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

Monday, November 11, 2019

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCullough, 2019

Premise: A linguist examines the way language is affected by the internet and affects online behavior.

Somewhat ironically, I read this book in hard copy and was constantly annoyed that I couldn't highlight passages to reference easily later. I enjoyed reading it a lot, but I kept getting interrupted (and interrupted for longer - days sometimes - than I usually am when reading a book on my phone or Kindle). So I think I'd need to read it again to really absorb it.

Each chapter focuses on one language aspect of the modern internet - for example, how when and why a person started going online affects how they use language online. Or how the definition of meme continues to shift and change over time as what memes themselves communicate shifts. Each topic is fascinating internally, and together the book creates a patchwork picture of the complexity of online communication.

I especially liked whenever the book drew parallels between modern and historical conventions. It really helped me think about how language conventions spread and change. The book puts everything from acronyms to emojis in context of the larger study of language. It also makes a compelling case for the value of studying informal language and explains how the internet makes that easier than it's ever been before.

Word nerds like me will definitely appreciate this book, but I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to consider modern communication in a nuanced, educated manner. Also, it's a lot of fun. The author wrote for The Toast and made a needlepoint of the "behold the field in which..." meme, which she describes in an extended metaphor. You know if you're the kind of person who would be entertained by that.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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