October 2019: UK edition of Because Internet comes out, Sound Education & Scintillation conferences

The UK edition of Because Internet came out this month! It will also be replacing the US edition in Australia, New Zealand, and other places that typically get UK versions of books. In celebration, I re-recorded a tiny portion of the Because Internet audiobook in a very posh, very fake British accent. You can get the real audiobook, featuring my normal voice, as well as all other versions of Because Internet here (or scroll to the bottom for a comparative photo of the US and UK editions!).

There was also some UK media around the UK publication! I did interviews in The Times (yes, that Times, the Times of London), the Observer/Guardian, BBC Science Focus, the Financial Times. Here’s a quote from my interview in the Guardian:

Like many linguists, I have a difficult time turning the linguistics part of my brain off. If you get me at the pub, I may be trying to listen to what you’re saying and then get distracted by your vowels. So to be interested in the way people talk on the internet is just a natural extension of being interested in how people talk around me on an everyday basis. […]

I think it’s easy to see people doing something different from you, and assume it must be haphazard, random, or they must not know “the right way” to do it. In reality, people are acting for deliberate reasons, and I’m figuring out what those reasons are.

I was on panels at two conferences this month! I did threads about adding linguistics programming to not-explicitly-linguistic conferences and about how making public-facing work leads to interesting opportunities.

Sound Education is a conference about educational podcasts in Boston, and I was on a panel about busting language myths through podcasting.

Scintillation is a small speculative fiction convention in Montreal, which I participated in for the second year now, and I was on panels about Using Language for Worldbuilding (moderator) and “What did we say before we said Cool?”

The main episode of Lingthusiasm was about smell words, both real and invented, and the bonus episode was about surnames. We were also recommended by Buzzfeed (!!), which called Lingthusiasm “joyously nerdy”.

Lingthusiasm also released new merch, including socks with our International Phonetic Alphabet, tree diagram, and esoteric symbols prints; greeting cards that say “thanks” or “congrats” on them in IPA; the pun-tastic “glottal bottle” and liquids for your liquids bottle/mug; and shirts/mugs/bags that say Linguistic “Correctness” is just a lie from Big Grammar to Sell More Grammars. (See photos of the all the Lingthusiasm merch here.)

I got inspired by the “ok boomer” shirts that have been going around to make “ok pedant” shirts (and people have actually bought them!)

Finally, but perhaps most excitingly, someone dressed up as my book for Halloween! I am ded.

Long list of all media from this month:

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This month’s photo is of the new UK edition of Because Internet (left) hanging out with the US edition (right) and a small stuffed wug.

because internet US vs UK editions and wug

September 2019: Book events in Toronto and Seattle, XOXO in Portland, and New York Times Op-Ed From the Future

I wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (my first time writing there instead of being quoted!), from the perspective of 200 years in the future when people have nostalgia for the good old days of quaint emoji. Here’s one part that I liked (longer excerpt here).

The early 21st century was also a golden era for linguistic innovation related to using indirect constructed dialogue to convey actions and mental states. In speech, this era saw the rise of “be like” and in writing, the “me:” and *does something* conventions. (And I’m like, how did people even communicate their internal monologues without these?? also me: *shakes head* yeah I have no idea.)

We now take these linguistic resources for granted, but at the time they represented a significant advancement in modeling complex emotions and other internal conditions on behalf of oneself and other people. Imagine being limited to the previous generation of dialogue tags, which attempted to slice everything into sharp distinctions between “said,” “felt” and “thought.”

I was very proud that this op-ed got me no fewer than five (5!) entries in New New York Times, a twitter account that tracks words that appear in the New York Times for the first time. (Also, which unhyphenated compound word from the early 23rd century are you?)

I also did quite a lot of travel!

Torontobook event in conversation with Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame), featuring a packed house with many old friends at The Ossington with Flying Booksn.

PortlandXOXO fest where I held a language meetup for the second time, introducing people to the excellent word game called Contact, left some signed copies at Powells, and gave many Because Internet stickers to people!

Seattle – two talks about the book, one internally for Textio in the afternoon, and one in the evening for the public with the Seattle Review of Books and Elliott Bay Books.

The third Language Files video in my recent collaboration with Tom Scott and Molly Ruhl went up, this time about the language sounds that could exist, but don’t (the forbidden grey boxes of the International Phonetic Alphabet).

The main episode of Lingthusiasm was a bilingual video episode interviewing linguist Dr Lynn Hou about her research on signed languages in natural contexts, including ASL on youtube and Chatino Sign Language, in ASL and English. The bonus episode was a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process for Because Internet. Watch the video episode here:

My keynote talk about internet linguistics at the CoEDL Summer School in Canberra, Australia last year went online. I also switched this monthly newsletter from Mailchimp to Substack (existing subscribers were already migrated, and you can still view it online at gretchenmcculloch.com/news, but if you’d like to get an email when I write a new post like this, you can sign up here).

I spent a week at a friend’s cottage by a lake for a much-needed respite, where I wasn’t on the internet much but did enjoy JY Yang’s Tensorate series :)

Long list of media from this month:

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Here’s a photo of me and Ryan North just before our event in Toronto, featuring the really excellent sign based on Because Internet that The Ossington made for us!

because internet event ossington toronto gretchen mcculloch ryan north.jpg

August 2019: UK edition of BECAUSE INTERNET coming in October and So. Much. Media.

There’s going to be an official UK edition of BECAUSE INTERNET! It’ll have a slightly different cover and subtitle, and will be coming out on October 3 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and everywhere else that typically gets UK editions of books. You can preorder it here in hardback, ebook, and audiobook formats. (As tempting as it sounds, I will NOT be re-recording the entire audiobook in a fake British accent for the UK edition — you’ll have to settle for my actual Canadian one.)

BECAUSE INTERNET hit the New York Times bestseller list for a second week, and through mysterious alchemical forces I acquired a Wikipedia bio page and this nifty Google search box beside my name.

There are, as I learned this month, two different ways that a book can be reviewed by the New York Times. One is through the Daily reviews, which is what happened last month. The other is through the weekend Books section, which is what happened this month with a review by Clay Shirky, who said:

If you are concerned about digital tools dumbing down written English, or leaving young people with lazier syntactic habits, this is definitely not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you are interested in how language actually works (the rules are just collective agreements, constantly renegotiated), and how the internet is changing those rules, it definitely is.

I also wrote an adapted excerpt from BECAUSE INTERNET which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a bit of it:

Irony is a linguistic trust fall. When I write or speak with a double meaning, I’m hoping that you’ll be there to catch me by understanding my tone. The risks are high—misdirected irony can gravely injure the conversation—but the rewards are high, too: the sublime joy of feeling purely understood, the comfort of knowing someone’s on your side. No wonder people through the ages kept trying so hard to write it.

Other media highlights: reviews in the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, and NPR Fresh Air, being quoted in a New York Times article about the em dash, and interviews on the BBC World News and NPR It’s Been a Minute. (This month’s full, ridiculous, media list below.) Here’s a quote from the Atlantic:

McCulloch shows how creative respellings, expressive punctuation, emoji, memes, and other hallmarks of informal communication online demonstrate a sophistication that can rival even the most elegant writing.

I did a Reddit AMA on the r/Books subreddit and wrote a Big Idea post on Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog, about the quixotic attempt to write a book about the internet. I’ve been reading both things for years so it was exciting to finally be on them!

I collaborated on a second Language Files video with Tom Scott and Molly Ruhl, this time about “no problem” “you’re welcome” and other phatic expressions.

I tweeted my reading of two other new books, This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, and How To by Randall Munroe.

The main Lingthusiasm episode was about how putting sounds into syllables is like putting a burger together (a thread about how we designed this metaphor). The bonus was about metaphors themselves, including metaphors we take for granted and the career of metaphor design. We also ran a Patreon Special Offer to get signed bookplates of BECAUSE INTERNET (which is closed now, but you can still get your name and favourite IPA character on our Lingthusiasm Supporter Wall of Fame).

Here’s the ridiculously long list of all the media I did this month, another 34 items to add to July’s 68. (For those keeping score at home, that makes for 102 media things in July and August alone, which is a bit more than the amount of total media that I’d ever done in the five or so years before that. In other words, that’s a LOT.)

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This month’s photo is a composite of various people’s photos of Because Internet hanging out with other books, thanks to people tagging me in their photos on instagram! It’s been really fun seeing this book I’ve been working on for so long out there in people’s lives!  (Remember to tag @gretchen.mcculloch directly in the photo rather than just in the comment if you want to show up in this view!) because internet instagram tagged grid

Want to follow what’s going on in the world of internet linguistics? You can now sign up for these posts as a monthly newsletter at gretchenmcc.substack.com

July 2019: Because Internet is published and makes the NYT Bestseller list!

There was a New York Times Daily review of Because Internet (paper version!). Here’s one of the very nice things that reviewer Jennifer Szalai had to say about it:

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.

There was also SO MUCH other media about the book, including reviews in Time, the Economist, The New Yorker, and more; excerpts or interviews in Wired, Slate, Vox, Salon, Vice, and more; and interviews on NPR All Things Considered and Science Friday, Slate’s Lexicon Valley, Grammar Girl, The Allusionist and the Cracked Podcast, just to pick a few. (Full list with hyperlinks below.) A great little ad also ran next to the NYT crossword puzzle in the print edition (photo).

As if that weren’t enough, Because Internet also hit the New York Times bestseller list at #9 in its first week! Huge, huge thanks to everyone who preordered it and bought it during the first week which made this happen.

I did a book launch party in Montreal with Argo Bookshop at the Atwater Library! I was especially excited about the cake with the cover of my book on it which allowed me to literally eat my words and the internet-themed youtube playlist that twitter helped us put together to project on a screen during the party. Many thanks to all the people who attended!

I did a collaboration with youtuber Tom Scott! The first video in this new round of Language Files videos is “why typing like this is sometimes okay.” and is directly based on Chapter 4 of Because Internet! Stay tuned for more Language Files videos with Tom and our new collaborator Molly Ruhl in future months.

Everything is also coming up Because Internet on Lingthusiasm! Our main episode was about the connections between gesture and emoji, aka the behind the scenes story of the part of the book where my podcast cohost Lauren Gawne makes a cameo! The bonus episode was about familects, not the book, but we also released a Special Offer on Patreon to get signed bookplate stickers. Our academic paper about emoji as digital gesture in the journal Language@Internet also came out this month, and Lauren wrote an accessible summary version of it for The Conversation which got picked up by Quartz. (We were very pleased to have to disclose that our Lingthusiasm patrons helped fund this research.) Also, I now have an Erdős number.

When people ask what it’s like to have this book I’ve been working on for five years finally come out, the best analogy that I can think of is that it’s like having it constantly be my birthday for the past several weeks: I’ve been hearing from so many people from all corners of my life who are excited to have spotted BECAUSE INTERNET in their local bookstore or library, or to have heard me on the radio or their favourite podcast. I haven’t always been able to reply to everyone individually, but I truly appreciate how many communities have claimed this book’s success as their own.

In non-book-related news, I also went to California to do a linguistics outreach event at the LSA Summer Institute in UC Davis, consisting of a lingwiki Wikipedia editathon focussing on articles about underrepresented languages in the afternoon, and in the evening doing a talk about effective communication of linguistics to a general audience and MCing the 3 Minute Thesis event. (A thread from an interesting talk I attended on language tech.)

Here is the truly staggering media list just for July alone for Because Internet, all 65 (!) items:

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This month’s photo is real paper proof that Because Internet made the New York Times Bestseller list! because internet nyt bestseller list with emoji.jpg

June 2019: First finished copy of Because Internet, plus fandom tags on Wired

Because Internet was reviewed in Science Magazine, Real SimpleBooklist, and Library Journal, in addition to last month’s reviews. Here’s what Science Magazine says about it:

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.

I did book-related threads about expanding the linguistics bookshelf and the public lending right and how you can order a book you’re excited about from your local public or academic library.

Because Internet is out on July 23rd! That’s just over a week away! Preorders all count towards a book’s first week sales, and the first week is the best chance that a book has of getting on any kind of bestseller list, so if you’re planning on getting it, I’d greatly appreciate if you got it now!

I’m also having a book launch party in Montreal on July 31 — if you’re in the Montreal area, I hope to see you there! You can get free tickets here via Eventbrite.

My latest article for Wired was about the Archive of Our Own and how fans are better than tech at organizing information online. (Plus: a delightful coda.) Excerpt:

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling.

Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.

This month’s main episode of Lingthusiasm was about why spelling is hard — but also hard to change (with a great tweet about the French circonflexe accent and English) and the bonus episode was North, left, or towards the sea — direction words with Alice Gaby (plus a thread about direction words).

I read the first two Murderbot Diaries novellas and livetweeted my linguistic thoughts about them. I also read This Is How You Lose The Time War, which I was not able to livetweet yet since it was still an advance copy, but it was excellent and I strongly recommend it.

I’m featured in Lauren Gawne’s Linguistics Jobs series at Superlinguo, talking about how I became an internet linguist.

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This month’s featured image is the first finished copy of Because Internet, which was sent to me in the mail! It looks like a real book! (Just hanging out on one of our Lingthusiasm esoteric symbols scarves, which matches it perfectly.) Front and back photos, because I can’t resist.

May 2019: audiobook recording and early reviews of Because Internet, plus esoteric symbols scarves

I spent many hours this month in a soundbooth, recording my own audiobook for Because Internet! Unsurprisingly, doing all this talking gave me some linguistic thoughts, which I tweeted about here, including finally needing to take a side on the gif pronunciation wars, how to read keysmash out loud, loll versus ell oh ell, mIxEd CaPiTaLiZaTiOn, reading emoji out loud, putting on voices, linguist flexes, writing versus speaking, and my favourite linguist name fact. (Blog post version.)

The Because Internet audiobook is available on July 23, the same day as the hardcover and ebook versions, and you can preorder the audiobook on many platforms by following the links here!

Reviews are starting to come in for Because Internet: trade reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly (starred), and on recommended summer book lists for Elle Magazine, Esquire and Wired. Here’s an excerpt from PW:

McCulloch, writer of the “Resident Linguist” column for Wired and podcast cohost of Lingthusiasm, debuts with a funny and fascinating examination of the evolution of language in the digital age. Exploring everything from capitalization and punctuation to emojis and gifs, her book breaks down the structure of “internet language” in a precise and engaging way.

This month’s main episode of Lingthusiasm was You heard about it, but I was there – evidentiality (it also comes in a meme version), and the bonus episode was about animal communication. We also introduced new Lingthusiasm merch! Including esoteric symbols scarves, mugs, and notebooks, mugs and notebooks of our IPA scarf and tree diagram scarf designs, and onesies saying Little Longitudinal Language Acquisition Project. (Plus: a twitter thread about the obscure symbols fandom.)

My BAHfest talk about weird English spelling reform is now online. Recommended if you like Unicode jokes.

I’ve now been blogging at All Things Linguistic for 7 years! Here are my favourite posts from the past year and a retrospective thread on what blogging taught me about research and writing.

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This photo is from the soundbooth where I recorded the Because Internet audiobook, complete with MANY BEVERAGES.

because internet recording studio redacted

April 2019: Coding in English and new Because Internet cover photos

My latest article for Wired is: Coding is for everyone — as long as you speak English. (I also made a Glitch remix of the first website for it). Here’s a quote from the article:

In theory, you can make a programming language out of any symbols. The computer doesn’t care. The computer is already running an invisible program (a compiler) to translate your IF orinto the 1s and 0s that it functions in, and it would function just as effectively if we used a potato emoji 🥔 to stand for IF and the obscure 15th century Cyrillic symbol multiocular O ꙮ to stand for. The fact that programming languages often resemble English words like body or if is a convenient accommodation for our puny human meatbrains, which are much better at remembering commands that look like words we already know.

But only some of us already know the words of these commands: those of us who speak English.

This month’s Lingthusiasm main episode was an interview with Ake Nicholas about making pop culture resources to get kids excited about Cook Islands Māori (transcript), and the bonus episode was about how radio announcers know how to pronounce all the names (an interview with Tiger Webb from our Sydney liveshow).

In news about my book, an early review of Because Internet said that “me reading this was basically galaxy brain” (<3) and I was quoted in this article in The Cut, talking about the importance of linguistic styleshifting.

I started getting ready to record the Because Internet audiobook (which I’m doing myself!), updated my cover photo to include the book and got an idea for how to sign people’s copies. I also compiled my best memes and behind-the-scenes bits about Because Internet so far into a convenient twitter moment.

In other books (specifically lingfic), I tweeted assorted thoughts about the linguistic worldbuilding in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and its sequels (thread).

Somehow I got namechecked in the hovertext of an SMBC comic, so that’s a lifegoal accomplished that I never knew I had.

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This month’s image is one of my fancy new social media cover photos featuring Because Internet!

BecauseInternet_FacebookCover_cropped

March 2019: Gesture video for Lingthusiasm, #BAHfest, and BECAUSE INTERNET in the mail

I gave a humorous speech at the Bad Ad-hoc Hypothesis fest (BAHfest MIT) about the very logical (!) reasons to make English spelling less logical. I’m told that there will be video eventually — for now, my slides are here.

This month’s Lingthusiasm episode was about why we gesture when we talk, and we also made it available as our very first video episode so you can see the gestures! Many thanks to our Patreon supporters who enabled us to experiment with video! The bonus episode was Do you adjust the way you talk to match other people? Linguistic Accommodation with special guest our producer Claire Gawne.

I was quoted in articles about the xx email signoff in the New York Times, about the origin of the word “emoji” in Science Friday (NPR), and about business speak and corporate jargon for the BBC.

I was a guest on Spirits Podcast, a boozy podcast about myths and legends, talking about names and folklore! I also judged A Word A Day’s 25th anniversary pangram contest (the winner? “Emoji having been popularized, texts acquire wacky faces.”)

I livetweeted my thoughts on The Raven Tower, a new novel by Ann Leckie that has many cool linguistic worldbuilding elements!

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This month’s photo is of an advance copy of BECAUSE INTERNET arriving at reviewers, along with a printed-out tweet on the package!

because internet with envelope tweet

February 2019: Predictive text meme in Wired and galleys of Because Internet

My latest Wired article is about the appeal of the predictive text meme: we’ve gone from Damn You Autocorrect to treating the strip of three predicted words as a sort of wacky but charming oracle. Plus: I’ve officially got a Wired author sketch now!

I was also quoted in the Huffington Post about how we use okay vs ok vs k in workplace communication and profiled in Stylist France magazine (print, in French).

In Because Internet news, I tweeted some novelty brand twitter accounts about my book, and some of them actually replied! I also made an emoji version of the Because Internet cover ✨, and there’s now a Goodreads page for Because Internet and for me as an author, if you’d like to register your interest in structured data format!

The latest Lingthusiasm main episode was about a new metaphor for verbs and sentences: the verb is the coat rack which the rest of the sentence hangs on (transcript). I also did a lingcomm meta thread about how we go about making a “technical topic explained in a nontechnical way” episode like this. The bonus episode was about how the internet is making English better — it’s a live recording from our Melbourne show, so you can feel like you’re in a friendly group of lingthusiasts from the comfort of your own couch!

I also updated my website, including a shiny new theme, a more detailed page for the book, a bio page, and an updated contact page.

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This month’s photo is of a bound galley copy of BECAUSE INTERNET — the first time I got to see my book looking like a real book! The inside still has some minor typos and other revisions, but this is the version that will be sent out to reviewers so that reviews can come out at the same time as the book in July.

because internet galley in front of a plant.jpg

January 2019: Emoji kids, book cards, and #LSA2019

I wrote an article for Wired about preliterate kids texting with emoji. Plus, some bonus adorable examples that didn’t fit in the article.

I wrote an update post about how my book on internet language is going! The book now has a publicist, Shailyn Tavella and you can email her at stavella@prh.com for questions about review copies and interviews.

I also dropped by the fancy new Riverhead office in the Penguin building, made a few comments about Unicode and capitalization, and did a late-stage book editing pass involving reading the whole book out loud to myself which made me feel like David Attenborough.

At the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (this year in New York City), I judged the 5 Minute Linguist competition (video of all the talks here) and did a lingwiki Wikipedia editathon with a focus on underrepresented language articles for the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages. Threads from the LSA about bimodal (signed/spoken) bilingualismlinguistics high school teachers, and the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages (kickoff events).

The main episode of Lingthusiasm was an interview with Hannah Gibson about language contact and Bantu languages, and the bonus episode was about naming people (and especially babies). Plus: when I found out that my cohost was embarking on a new longitudinal language acquisition project, there was only one gift I could give her.

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This month’s image is the stack of cards with my book’s cover on them that I got from my publisher to give out at the LSA. If you see me at a conference between now and when BECAUSE INTERNET is out, I’m happy to give you one too! Or stop by Argo Bookshop if you’re in Montreal to get a card and/or preorder a signed copy.

because internet book cards.jpg