December 2019: NYT op-ed on Writing How We Talk, many year-in-review booklists, and a special leather-bound edition of Because Internet

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.

(Read the whole thing, or see my twitter thread with excerpts if you don’t have a NYT subscription.)

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.

(Read the whole thing and watch out for that last line!)

It’s year-in-review-booklist season, and Because Internet has indeed made some lists!

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 treatclick 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 did two new videos in collaboration with Tom Scott, one about gesture and the other about priming and the replication crisis.

I posted the latter part of my Weird Internet Careers series:

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: 

Roundups

  • 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

Podcasts:

Local Print/Online:

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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!)

because internet leatherbound closeup

 

April 2018: Tree diagram scarves and Prodigal Tongue livetweet

We launched a new round of linguistics-themed merch on Lingthusiasm: scarves with a subtle tree diagram print, and t-shirts and other items that say Heck Yeah Descriptivism and Heck Yeah Language Change. Plus, the IPA scarves in more colours: teal, grey, black, and pale pink. For more pictures and to order.

This month’s Lingthusiasm main episode was about Sentences with baggage: Presuppositions and the bonus episode was about Roses are red and other connections between poems and memes.

I tweeted my way through The Prodigal Tongue: Lynne Murphy’s new book about British vs American English (twitter thread version, blog post version)

I gave a talk at McGill about careers in linguistics: slides.

I put up again my semi-annual call for papers and student work about internet linguistics!

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

Here’s a photo of one of the new tree diagram scarves, in cream, hanging out on a tree. CreamTreeTree10 cropped filtered

October 2017: NYC trip, first Lingthusiasm interview, and Linguist Halloween

I went to New York City for a planning meeting of the Planet Word Advisory Board and to meet with my publisher. The details of both are top secret for now but will be really exciting once I can talk about them!

Lingthusiasm aired our very first interview episode: What Does it Mean to Sound Black? Intonation and Identity Interview with Nicole Holliday (transcript). The bonus episode was a recording of our Montreal impromptu liveshow about like, um, hark, and other discourse markers, so you can check that out on Patreon if you want to feel like you’re right there in a room of friendly Lingthusiasts!

We also ran a review and recommend campaign in order to reach 100k listens by our anniversary episode in November, so if you needed an excuse to start listening, get caught up, or recommend the podcast to anyone who needs some fun linguistics in their life, now would be a great time! (Since this post is going up a bit later than usual, I can say that we did in fact meet that goal and that you may also want to know about these IPA scarves now, rather than waiting until their official appearance in November’s news post!)

I did an interview with the Macquarie Dictionary podcast on doggo, and I was quoted in several blog posts on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, about doggo speak, birbspeak, and the history of animal meme lects.

I also updated my two linguistics grad school advice posts: Part I and Part II, and there was a Linguistics Jobs interview about a project manager a language tech company.

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s featured images are some fun sketches I drew of schwa dressing up for Halloween (schwa-lloween), because, after all, it’s the spookiest vowel.

2014 Year in Review

Cross-posted from All Things Linguistic.

What a year! I finished my MA in linguistics at McGill at the end of 2013, so in 2014 I started writing linguistics for a general audience full time. By comparison, here’s 2013’s (much shorter!) highlights post.

I started the year at the LSA in Minneapolis, where “because x” — which I’d written several posts about — was voted Word of the Year for 2013.

I wrote A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Doge. Wow. It was my second article for The Toast and currently has nearly 50k shares (wow.) Related: the article summarized as a doge image, the second generation of internet language, Dogeblanca, French doge, wuge, and my interview with the BBC.

Further Toast pieces included:

In the spring, I became the editor of Slate’s language blog, Lexicon Valley. Here are a few of the posts that I wrote (full list here).

I also had the privilege of working with many great writers on Lexicon Valley. It’s hard to pick, but here are a few posts by other people. (See also this summary of top Lexicon Valley posts from 2014.)

I continued writing for Grammar Girl, and also started writing for The Week and Schwa Fire. Selected posts:

I did an interview with Steven Pinker and reviewed his recent book The Sense of Style

I wrote several series of blog posts:

I wrote several individual advice posts:

Notable posts on language and society:

On language, the internet, pop culture, and fan-guistics:

General interest:

In the “linguists gonna ling” category, I became part of the group blog Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. In addition to the LSA annual meeting, I gave a keynote on internet syntax at McCCLU and attended SULA, NWAV, and NELS.

At a meta-blog level, I celebrated my two-year blogiversary and 1000th post on All Things Linguistic, and wrote an FAQ. I also started publishing monthly summary posts of my linguistic activities, blog-related and not, on my personal website, so you can check those out if you’re worried about missing anything major.

Upcoming: I’ll be starting next year as usual at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon in early January, where you can catch me on the Popularizing Linguistics via Social Media panel, at a linguistics careers networking event, running a Wikipedia Editathon, and of course generally in the hallways and on #lsa2015. I’m bringing my copy of linguistsagainsthumanity and I hear there may be a few other ling-games brought, so feel free to bring any games you have and/or join us (probably in the lobby or other common area) if you see people playing!

September 2014: Interview with Steven Pinker, poetry, pop linguistics advice, and continuing editathon plans

In September, I interviewed Steven Pinker about his new book, The Sense of Style, for which I also wrote a review.

I wrote about how rhythmic differences in language affect their poetry for Schwa Fire, season 1, issue 3 (working title: “Why Shakespeare didn’t write haikus”). Normally Schwa Fire is by subscription, but this one is available for free, at least for now, so do check it out!

I also wrote advice for writing pop linguistics articles. It’s of general interest, but you should especially check it out if you’re planning on pitching to me for Lexicon Valley. And another advice post for going to undergrad and student-focussed conferences.

Two interviews with me are now online: one with Grammarist and another as part of a longer article by Kyle Chayka on doge and the future of meme culture, up at Matter.

Continuing with Wikipedia editathon plans: the announcement is now up on the LSA’s website. I’m also organizing an editathon to happen in Montreal this fall, as a sort of trial run for the bigger LSA one. Not much about this online yet, but everyone I’ve talked to so far has been very excited about it!

Highlights of my recent writing for Lexicon Valley:

Selected blog posts: