October 27, 2020

I’m listening to the audiobook of Because Internet read by the author, Gretchen McCulloch. This is an engaging and entertaining look at how our use of language has evolved in the internet era. You might think linguistics is a dry, boring topic, but McCulloch makes it interesting and fun, even when she’s deep-diving to the extent you might think you’d get lost.

book cover with black text on a bright yellow background that says Because Internet Understanding the New Rules of Language Gretchen McCulloch

She’s also made me think about how and when I was introduced to the internet. Honestly, I can’t remember. We had university-provided email accounts in my last two years of undergraduate studies, but I don’t remember if there was a university intranet. Or if there was any sort of external network that allowed searches. 

In the mid- and late-1990’s, I used web-based searches to find jobs.

At some point after 1999, I became involved in fan bulletin boards I discovered through the websites of my favorite authors. And then joined Yahoo Groups when that opened up. Remember when Yahoo Messenger was big?

I even played around with creating a Geocities website.

My use of the internet was gradual and grew as the capabilities increased.

One thing McCulloch’s book has made clear is how ignorant I am regarding the latest texting conventions. I had no idea that a period isn’t just a piece of punctuation ending a sentence but can change the tone of a sentence or phrase depending on length and/or context. 

Thank goodness my friends and family are as clueless about these nuances as I am, so I don’t think I’ve offended anyone with my periods after every sentence. But it goes to illustrate her point that language is constantly evolving to fit new mediums and new expectations of social interaction.

I was also reminded that when I include text messages in my books, having them in all caps will be interpreted as shouting by some readers, rather than a style chosen to differentiate the texts from the rest of the words on the page.

Those two points are a fraction of the fascinating stuff in this book. I highly recommend it! 

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