I wrote a second op-ed for the New York Times this month! It’s part of their 2010s retrospective and it’s called We Learned to Write the Way We Talk. Here’s a quote:
Language snobbery is not inevitable. It’s not that people who cling to lists of language rules don’t want love as well. It’s that they’ve been sold a false bill of goods for how to get it. In high school English classes and writing manuals, we’ve been told that being “clear” and “correct” in language will help people understand us.
But understanding doesn’t come from insisting on a list of rules, shouting the same thing only louder like a hapless monolingual tourist in a foreign country. Understanding comes from meeting other people where they are, like being willing to use gestures and a handful of semi-remembered words and yes, even to look like a fool, to bridge a language barrier with laughter and humility.
We’ve been taught the lie that homogeneity leads to understanding, when in truth, understanding comes from better appreciating variety.
My latest Wired column was about how boomerspeak became a recognizable style for younger people to parody. Here’s an excerpt:
Boomerspeak’s canonical features include the dot dot dot, repeated commas, and the period at the end of a text message. It can also involve random mid-sentence capitalization, typing in all caps, double-spacing after a period, signing your name at the end of a text message, and confusion between the face with tears of joy emoji and the loudly crying emoji.
But it’s not just a question of intergenerational strife. Watching boomerspeak distill and crystalize into a distinct genre this year can help us understand a bigger phenomenon: how distinctive ways of speaking bubble up into the popular consciousness and become available for commentary or imitation, a linguistic process known as enregisterment.
It’s year-in-review-booklist season, and Because Internet has indeed made some lists!
- Best nonfiction books of 2019 (Esquire)
- Best science books of 2019 (Science Friday)
- Best nonfiction books of 2019 for the contrarians and the curious (Bloomberg)
- 2019 End-of-Year book recommendations (Way With Words)
- 12 Science Books You Should Read Right Now (Wired)
Here’s part of the blurb I wrote for Wired’s roundup list:
There’s always a risk, when it comes to Explaining The Youths, that said Youths will turn around and decide your explanation makes the thing no longer cool anymore (ahem, “ok boomer”). When I decided to write a book about internet language, I was worried this would be people’s response. But that’s not what I’ve been told about Because Internet. Instead, people tell me it’s helping them bridge generation gaps.
It was also very very fun to see people’s photos of giving or being given Because Internet as a gift, or finally having time to read Because Internet around the holidays! I’ve tried to like/comment/reshare as many as possible on twitter and instagram, and do feel free to keep tagging me there!
The main episode of Lingthusiasm was about how to rebalance a lopsided conversation (helpful for all your smalltalk needs!) and the bonus episode was about onomatopoeia and sound symbolism. We also made one of last year’s bonus episodes, our Melbourne liveshow about internet linguistics, available to everyone as a special treat – click here to listen. Here’s a thread summing up all 24 episodes of 2019. We also enjoyed seeing everyone’s glottal bottles, IPA socks, and other Lingthusiasm merch gifts coming in!
I posted the latter part of my Weird Internet Careers series:
- Part V – What can a Weird Internet Career look like?
- Part VI – Is it too late for me to start my Weird Internet Career?
- Part VII – How to level up your Weird Internet Career
If you want to get the Weird Internet Careers series as a 30-page document, plus bonus questions to ask yourself about starting your Weird Internet Career, you can sign up for these posts as a monthly newsletter.
Full media list:
- Esquire.com – roundup “The Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 Span Everything From True Crime to Scammer Culture” – 12/3
- Popsugar– roundup “18 Quirky Nonfiction Books That Will Make Perfect Holiday Gifts” – 12/3
- Science Friday – roundup “The Best Science Books Of 2019” – 12/6
- Vox – roundup “The best books I read in 2019” – 12/6
- AtomicDust– roundup “What We’re Reading, Watching and Listening To Over Holiday Break” – 12/11
- Bloomberg– roundup “Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 for Contrarians and the Curious” – 12/16
- Blinkist – roundup “The Biggest Nonfiction Books of 2019” – 12/17
- Better– roundup “The 10 Best Books of 2019”– 12/24
- Lithhub – roundup “The Booksellers’ Year in Reading: Part 1”– 12/24
- Popsugar – roundup “45 Nonfiction Books We Couldn’t Put Down in 2019”– 12/26
- Read It Forward – roundup “Book Gifts for people who have everything”
- Wired – roundup “12 Science Books You Should Read Right Now”
Features and Mentions
- Reader’s Digest—mention—12/3
- Medium’s Forge —mention—12/5
- New York Times Style Section– mention – 12/6
- BoingBoing—Wired essay and Book mention—12/20
- Vulture – interview on An A-Z of Words That Defined the Internet in the 2010s– 12/24
- Mashable—feature “2019 was the year of ‘yikes”– 12/30
- GeekDad —mention—12/30
- A Way With Words Radio– roundup “holiday gift list” – 12/16
- San Francisco Chronicle – feature “Words of the Millennium”– 12/19
- If you’re doing internet linguistics you should be citing non-academic sources and very junior scholars
- Random writing tip for making sentences flow together more cohesively
- A thread on helpful email subject lines
- A thread about the raised initial c in Mc surnames
- Today in “linguists are not kidding when they say that language enables you to understand sentences that have never been said before in the entirety of human history” – Cocaine in the River Thames is ‘another problem eels don’t need’, says expert
- A year-in-review writing list thread, with some thoughts on how much invisible work happens behind the scenes before the splashy fruits of one’s labour are visible
- “G can be hard, as in gif, or soft, as in gif.”
- I really hope the next version of “oh I saw your book in my local bookshop” is going to be “I saw your book cited in this academic paper”!
- The genre of photo captions using directional parentheses to create humourous implicatures – Boris Johnson (right) and Piper Kerr (left)
- Some very Canadian stockphoto memes
- How people persuaded people to read Because Internet
- Last Christmas, I gave you a chart / And the very next day, you learned IPA / This year, we’ll transcribe without fear / Our clicks will be quadrilabial
- Good King Wenceslo, Good King Wenceslas, Good King Wenceslat, Good King Wenceslamus, Good King Wenceslatis, Good King Wenceslant
- “how to see cats”?
- Linguist can have Little a language, as a treat
Selected blog posts:
- A linguist on what Baby Yoda’s first words might be
- No, that dog on instagram can’t really talk
- Linguistics jobs: marketing content specialist
- Watching a “language” develop when kids can’t speak to each other
- A Christmas syllable structure tree
- Last Christmas / I gave you a chart
- Good King Wenceslo / Good King Wenceslas
- Why this “language geek” provides hundreds of indigenous language tools for free
This month’s photo is of a very special leather-bound edition of Because Internet that my publisher had made just for me, in celebration of my book becoming a bestseller! It’s the only one that exists and I am amazed. (They even raised the initial McC!)