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.
Selected blog posts:
This month’s image is one of my fancy new social media cover photos featuring Because Internet!
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!
Selected blog posts:
This month’s photo is of an advance copy of BECAUSE INTERNET arriving at reviewers, along with a printed-out tweet on the package!
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.
Selected blog posts:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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) bilingualism, linguistics 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.
Selected blog posts:
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.
The preorder link for my book went up this month! You can now preorder Because Internet as a delightful surprise for your future self and to let the publisher know that people are interested in internet linguistics, either online by following the links here or by contacting your local indie bookstore. (Want a hint of what’s inside? Today in Things I Tell My Copyeditor: “stet, this is a Unicode joke”)
The Lingthusiasm main episode was about words for family relationships, or kinship terms, and the bonus episode was a behind the scenes Q&A episode where we answered your questions about the shape of the ear, very old words, and more. (The Q&A is also available as a special video episode for patrons!)
I finished my trip to Australia with a visit to Adelaide for the annual meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society, where I did a workshop on linguistics communication (#lingcomm).
I then ended the year in Spain!
I started a personal/professional instagram account, so if your instagram feed needs more linguistics in it, you can now follow @gretchen.mcculloch there.
I posted my year in review blog post on All Things Linguistic (and a tongue-in-cheek year in review tweet).
Selected blog posts:
This month’s photo is from Adelaide, where a group of linguists naturally chose to have dinner at the restaurant with the most, er, phonetic name.