Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
A linguistically informed look at how our digital world is transforming the English language.
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.
Because Internet is essential reading 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 age is changing the English language, why that’s a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are.
Get the book
You can get Because Internet in person or on the website of your favourite local bookstore, or follow one of the links below:
- US hardcover: Amazon.com, Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Walmart
- US ebook: Amazon.com, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Google Play Store, Kobo
- UK: Amazon.co.uk, Apple Books, Hive, Kobo, Waterstones
- Canada: Amazon.ca, Chapters Indigo
- Australia: Amazon.com.au, Booktopia.com.au
- Other countries: Book Depository (US edition), Book Depository (UK edition), check your country’s Amazon, or ask at any local bookstore that carries international books and they should be able to order it (Because Internet is distributed through Penguin Random House).
- Audiobook (read by me!): Audible, Audiobookstore, Google Play, Libro.fm, Kobo (Curious about what the audio narration sounds like? You can listen to an excerpt here!)
You can buy signed copies through Argo Bookshop in Montreal, a fantastic indie bookstore which I keep stocked in signed copies if you happen to be in Montreal, and which is also happy to ship internationally, at your expense (just add a note when you check out if you want it personalized to a particular name!)
Or sign up for my monthly linguistics email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any book news on social media and find out when a Because Internet event may be happening near you!
What people think
Because Internet is a New York Times bestseller!
Named a Best Book of 2019 by TIME, Amazon, and The Washington Post
A Wired Must-Read Book of Summer
“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
“Gretchen McCulloch is the internet’s favorite linguist, and this book is essential reading. Reading her work is like suddenly being able to see the matrix. She explains the hows and the whys of the ways we talk online with the deepest empathy, understanding, and compassion.” —Jonny Sun, author of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too
“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
“A compelling narrative rich with examples from her own online activities, a healthy dose of humor, and plenty of cat memes… the breadth of topics covered—from conversation analysis to meme culture to the development of texting as we now know it—makes this book useful, engaging, and enjoyable.” —Science
“Sometimes it seems like the internet is a seething brew of ugliness and misery. So it’s nice to remember that, as well as the lawless drudgery, there are complex human systems that, intentional or not, create something totally new. Internet linguist (damn!) Gretchen McCulloch explores the ever-changing language of online.” —Elle, “30 Best Books to Read this Summer”
“McCulloch lays out the ways in which online lingo, from emojis to GIFs to acronyms like “lol” and “omg,” has become a vital part of modern communication. It’s also an analog window into how the evolution of digital communication mirrors the shifts in word usage that have happened over generations.” —Wired, “Must-Read Books of Summer”
“Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet is not your English teacher’s grammar guide—not even close. Self-described internet linguist McCulloch traces how the web has changed the way we communicate—whether through emoji, lowercase letters. or cat memes—and makes a compelling, entertaining argument that this change is good for the English language as a whole.” —Real Simple
“In prose at once scholarly and user-friendly, McCulloch unpacks the evolution of language in the digital age, providing a comprehensive survey of everything from the secret language of emojis to the appeal of animal memes.” —Esquire
“English’s great strength is its informality and the internet has created a golden age for studying this flexibility: McCulloch’s lively and delightful survey of these new findings is a must for anyone who loves language in all its expressive forms.” —Cory Doctorow
“A funny and fascinating examination of the evolution of language in the digital age.” —Publishers Weekly
“An insightful analysis of language and the internet of right now, in-depth yet accessible to any internet generation.” —Booklist
“A fun read for Internet people of all generations….Recommended for web and language nerds alike, encompassing illuminating facts on the origin of acronyms, memes, and digital tone of voice.” —Library Journal
“Because Internet is a rare gem: a groundbreaking scholarly study that’s also approachable, personable, and funny. McCulloch guides the reader through the seeming disorder of internet-influenced communications and deftly contextualizes all of it: memes and gifs, emoji and emoticons, weird punctuation and no punctuation. Her enthusiasm for language is matched by her command over the subject; if you’re worried that the internet has killed language, McCulloch’s extensive examination will convince you otherwise. Because Internet is an absolute unit: a unique linguistic study, a history of the internet, a how-to, and an encouragement that the omgs and cat pictures have only brought us closer together.” —Kory Stamper, author of Word by Word
“Because Internet is the most up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the way informal internet language has evolved and is evolving. Its historical perspective will illuminate every generation of internet users: oldies will get a clear picture of what young people are up to; younglings will discover the origins of their latest linguistic fashions. Gretchen McCulloch writes with great common sense, an eye for the apt illustration, an appealing sense of humour, and a real concern for explanation. She doesn’t just describe language trends: she investigates why they’ve taken place, and it’s her insightful interpretations that give this book its special appeal.” —David Crystal, author of Shakespeare’s Words and How Language Works
“Because Internet is a joyful exploration of the newest creative upswell of English—if you want to understand why you love emoji, share memes, and don’t make a sound when lol-ing, you need this book!” —Erin McKean, founder of the online dictionary Wordnik.com
“Gretchen McCulloch has pulled off the feat of answering every question anyone today of any age has about how the internet has transformed the way we use language every day. Just try putting this book down.” —John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and Words on the Move
Contact Shailyn Tavella firstname.lastname@example.org for information on review copies and interviews. High-res version of the cover and author photo may be downloaded below (right click and open in new window).