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

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.)

National Radio/TV:

National Print/Top Online:

Newsletters/Blogs:

Podcasts:

Local Radio/TV:

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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:

National Radio

National Print/Top Online

Newsletters:

Podcasts:

Local Print/Online/Radio:

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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