November 2019: Emoji stats, speaking reel, Crash Course announcement, and Weird Internet Careers

I wrote a very deep-dive article about the growing pains of the new emoji approval process at Unicode for Wired, featuring a graph that I’m very proud of: New emoji are so boring — but they don’t have to be.

If you’ve been unenthused about the emoji of recent years, you’re not alone. A flashlight? A toolbox? A fire extinguisher? A tin can? Who even uses these?

The emoji set to appear on your phone next year are similarly dismal. A screwdriver, a toothbrush, a bell pepper—seriously, what is this, a shopping center? When you think of emoji, you don’t think of a laundry list of random objects. You think of iconic, sometimes weird, expressive faces, like the face with tears of joy, the thinking face, the angry devil, the smiling pile of poo, and the see-no-evil monkey, plus classic symbols like the thumbs-up and the heart. But the latest batch includes just three new faces and one new hand shape, compared with 49 new objects, from a roller skate and a rock to a plunger.

The reason for this slide into irrelevance? The Unicode Consortium—the organization in charge of determining which symbols our devices are supposed to recognize—has increasingly been measuring the wrong thing in the process of approving new emoji.

I also wrote a very short piece for New York Magazine’s Futures issue (print) about memes and cultural references: In the future, we will have meme folklorists.

I now have a speaking reel online! If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like when I’m giving a talk about internet linguistics, you can now watch a short demo video, also embedded below. To book me to talk at your conference or company, please see the instructions on my contact page.

I’m very excited to announce that there’s going to be a Crash Course Linguistics minicourse on youtube in 2020! I’m even more excited to say that I’m involved, along with the excellent linguists Lauren Gawne and Jessi Grieser.

linguistics crash course graphic

I guess we’re heading towards the end of the year, because the “top books of 2019” lists have started to appear, and Because Internet is on some of them!

Because Internet also made it to the semifinals of the Goodreads Choice Awards despite not having been in the previous round, because apparently enough people wrote it in! I’m stunned and honoured.

Other notable media included being interviewed on the Ezra Klein Show and having a review go up in Ars Technica. (Full list of all media this month below.)

It was our three-year anniversary for Lingthusiasm! A thread of which lingthusiasm episode you might want to start with, and a few choice quotes that people liked: evidentials in Tibetan languages, the French circumflex, and language is an open source project.

The main episode of Lingthusiasm was about the many ways of talking about many things: plurals, duals, and more and the bonus episode was about reading fiction like a linguist and our favourite lingfic book recs. We’ve also been very much enjoying seeing all of the Lingthusiasm merch that people are getting this month, especially the new lingthusiastic socks and BIG GRAMMAR tshirts, and the perennially popular baby onesies.

I updated my FAQ to include a bit about how to get started writing a book, and also started writing a retrospective series on Weird Internet Careers.

I love hearing about all your Because Internet gifting plans! (So far, popular giftees include parents and teenagers!)

If you want to get signed/personalized copies of Because Internet, you can order those through Argo Bookshop in Montreal and I’m happy to personalize them to whatever name you like, just indicate it in the “notes” field on checkout! (Signing is free, but shipping is at your own expense.) Argo recommends ordering by December 10 if you want the book to arrive internationally by December 25, if you’re within Canada you can order as late as Dec 12. You can also, of course, get regular non-signed copies of Because Internet everywhere books are sold.

National Print/Top Online:

Newsletters & Podcasts:

Local:

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s featured image is already above, an advance glimpse of the graphics from the planned Linguistics Crash Course!

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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:

Radio/TV:

National Print/Top Online:

Newsletters & Blogs:

Podcasts:

Local Print/Online:

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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

December 2016: Lingthusiasm podcast launched, Idea Channel video, and yearly summary

I launched a podcast called Lingthusiasm with the fantastic Lauren Gawne of the linguistics blog Superlinguo. It’s a podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics and you can listen to it on iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play MusicYouTube or most other podcast apps via rss, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr for updates. We launched it with the first three episodes:

  1. Speaking a common language won’t lead to world peace
  2. Pronouns: singular “they”, other languages, and solving the gay fanfiction pronoun problem
  3. A lingthusiastic review of the alien linguistics movie Arrival

I consulted on this video for the PBS Idea Channel about the “words for snow” myth and I was quoted in this article for the New York Times: On the internet, to be “Mom” is to be Queen.

I also wrote book things! Nothing to announce yet, but here’s a few #amwriting protips.

I posted my yearly summary for 2016 on All Things Linguistic.

In January, I’m heading to the annual conference of the Linguistic Society of America, where I’ll be doing a panel and a talk and an editathon and lots of other things!

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s bookshelfie is the linguistics section of Foyles in London, a photo I took when I was in the UK in May.

foyles-london-bookshelfie

October 2016: Dawn or Doom talk on emoji, SXSW Word Curation accepted, #SpookyTalesForLinguists

In October, I gave a talk about emoji and why they aren’t language at the Dawn or Doom conference at Purdue University. You can see slides here or just look at the fantastic visualization that The Ink Factory made of my talk. I also got to meet Jorge Cham and many other cool people.

I found out that our South by Southwest panel proposal was accepted, so you can look for me in Austin, Texas in 2017 with Ben Zimmer, Jane Solomon, and Erin McKean talking about Word Curation: Dictionaries, Tech, and the Future.

Linguist Twitter had a lot of fun making #SpookyTalesForLinguists happen – see highlights or just go for the whole hashtag.

I’m quoted in several articles:

I ran a linguistics jobs interview with a health writer and noted with great excitement that plans are beginning for an AP linguistics course. I’ll be doing a panel about high school linguistics outreach at the LSA annual meeting in January.

I’m currently heading to EmojiCon in San Francisco, where I’ll be giving a workshop, so stay tuned for livetweets!

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s bookshelfie comes from Von’s Book Shop near Purdue University, but really, let’s just look at that visualization again. Amazing.

 

Top posts from 4 years of All Things Linguistic

Cross-posted from All Things Linguistic.

It’s my fourth blogiversary! Let’s celebrate by looking back at some of my favourite posts:

Internet language

Selected Mental Floss articles on internet language:

Livetweets, storified

Livetweeted book reviews:

Other livetweets:

Explanations

Linguist humour

Anti-prescriptivism

Language activism

Linguistics and pop culture

Things about languages

Collaborations

I collaborated on five Language Files videos with Tom Scott, the first of which technically went up last year:

Speaking:

Other projects:

Book

Resources

Haven’t been with me this whole time? It’s okay — you can see my favourite posts of year one, year two, and year three right here. Or if you’d like monthly highlight posts, you can read and/or subscribe in the News section of my website.

January 2016: LSA in DC, Explaining linguistics talks, Star Wars, twitter advice

I gave two talks in Washington DC, one at the LSA sister society meeting of The Association for Linguistic Evidence about explaining linguistics for forensic linguists (slides at bit.ly/explainling-lsa2016) and one at Georgetown about Writing, Talking, and Working Linguistics (slides at bit.ly/explainling-georgetown).

In the leadup to the LSA, I posted this advice post on how to “get” twitter. Also at the LSA annual meeting in DC, I held a #lingwiki Wikipedia editathon (see the report on articles edited) and did the LSA’s public relations for the weekend, including liaising with media attendees and running social media on the @LingSocAm twitter account with LSA intern Kat Starcevic. I’d also recommend checking out John Rickford’s LSA presidential address about linguistic injustice in the courtroom (in video and livetweet form).

I was quoted in several articles:

I also watched the new Star Wars movie and storified some thoughts that I and other twitter people had about how the languages make sense (spoiler: they don’t, really).

Selected blog posts:

Here’s a photo I took of the linguistics section at Second Story Books in DC:

second story books dc

Top posts from 3 years of All Things Linguistic

Cross-posted from All Things Linguistic.

It’s my third blogiversary! Let’s celebrate by looking back at some of my favourite posts:

Explanations

Linguist Humour

Anti-prescriptivism

Language activism

Linguistics and pop culture

Internet Language

Gender pronouns

Things about languages

Linguistics videos

#lingwiki

Resources

Haven’t been with me this whole time? It’s okay — you can see the highlights of year one and year two right here.

October 2014: #LingTomSwifties, teaching yourself syntax trees, and conference pins

The abstract for my LSA panel about popularizing linguistics online is now up.

I had some fun with #LingTomSwifties on twitter.

On Lexicon Valley:

Selected blog posts:

I ran a series on my blog about the various possible ways to teach yourself to draw syntax trees.

  1. So, you asked the internet how to draw syntax trees. Here’s why you’re confused.
  2. What do we even mean by a syntax tree?
  3. Type 1: A sentence is an S
  4. Type 2: A sentence is an IP
  5. Type 3: A sentence is a TP
  6. Reconciling theories and final notes
  7. Other resources and topics

I also attended NWAV 43 (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) in Chicago (which memorably involved witnessing this song to Bill Labov), and NELS 45 (North-East Linguistics Society) in Boston. Here are my Lexicon Valley and All Things Linguistic pins for conference-wearing!

Lexicon Valley and All Things Linguistic (ATL) pins