2019 Year in Review

Cross-posted from my blog, All Things Linguistic

2019 was a very big year for me.

My book about internet language, which I’d been working on since 2014, finally came out into the world! Because Internet hit the New York Times bestseller list and was one of TIME’s 100 books of 2019, plus tons of other media.

I wrote two op-eds for the New York Times and continued writing my Resident Linguist column at Wired, and we made two special video episodes of my podcast, Lingthusiasm.

Book: Because Internet

There were over 200 media hits for Because Internet in 2019, at final count. Here are a few highlights:

Short-form Writing

Wired Resident Linguist column:

I also co-wrote an academic article with Lauren Gawne, Emoji as Digital Gestures in the journal Language@Internet [Open Access].

Events, Talks, and Videos

In January, I did a lingwiki Wikipedia editathon and judged the 5 Minute Linguist competition, both at the LSA annual meeting.

In March, I gave a comic talk at the festival of Bad Ad-hoc Hypotheses (BAHfest) about why we should make English spelling more weird and confusing, which you can watch online. Recommended if you like Unicode jokes.

In May, I recorded the Because Internet audiobook! Here’s a thread with my linguistic thoughts about the process and an audio sample of me reading the audiobook. 

In July, I went to the LSA Summer Institute in UC Davis, to do a lingwiki Wikipedia editathon focussing on articles about underrepresented languages, a talk about effective communication of linguistics to a general audience, and MC’d the 3 Minute Thesis event. Plus, I had book launch party in Montreal with Argo Bookshop!

In September, I did a book event in Toronto in conversation with Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame), featuring a packed house with many old friends at The Ossington with Flying Booksn. I also went to XOXO fest in Portland, and did two talks about the book in Seattle, with Textio and the Seattle Review of Books and Elliott Bay Books.

In October, I was on a panel about busting language myths through podcasting at Sound Education in Boston. I was also on panels about Using Language for Worldbuilding (moderator) and “What did we say before we said Cool?” at Scintillation, a small speculative fiction convention in Montreal.

I now have a speaking reel! So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like when I’m giving a talk about internet linguistics, you can now watch a five minute highlights video here!

I collaborated on several Language Files videos with youtuber Tom Scott:

Lingthusiasm Podcast

We celebrated our third year of Lingthusiasm, a podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics which I make with Lauren Gawne. New this year were two video episodes, about gesture and signed languages, so that you can actually see them!

Here are all 24 episodes from 2019, 12 main episodes and 12 bonus episodes:

  1. How languages influence each other – Interview with Hannah Gibson on Swahili, Rangi, and Bantu languages
  2. The verb is the coat rack that the rest of the sentence hangs on
  3. Why do we gesture when we talk? (also a video episode!)
  4. Pop culture in Cook Islands Māori – Interview with Ake Nicholas
  5. You heard about it but I was there – Evidentials
  6. Why spelling is hard – but also hard to change
  7. Emoji are Gesture Because Internet
  8. Putting sounds into syllables is like putting toppings on a burger
  9. Villages, gifs, and children – Interview with Lynn Hou on signed languages in real-world contexts (also a video episode!)
  10. Smell words, both real and invented
  11. Many ways to talk about many things – Plurals, duals, and more
  12. How to rebalance a lopsided conversation

Bonus episodes on Patreon:

  1. Naming people (and especially babies)
  2. How the internet is making English better (liveshow from Melbourne)
  3. Adapting your language to other people
  4. How do radio announcers know how to pronounce all the names? With guest Tiger Webb
  5. Talking with dogs, horses, ravens, dolphins, bees, and other animals
  6. North, left, or towards the sea? With guest Alice Gaby
  7. Words from your family – Familects!
  8. Welcome aboard the metaphor train!
  9. Behind the scenes on Because Internet (Q&A)
  10. Jobs, locations, family, and invention – Surnames
  11. Reading fiction like a linguist
  12. The sounds of sheep, earthquakes, and ice cream – Onomatopoeia

We also made new Lingthusiasm merch, including  items with the best esoteric Unicode symbols on themadding socks, mugs, and notebooks in all our prints (IPA, tree diagrams, and esoteric symbols), onesies saying Little Longitudinal Language Acquisition Project, 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 all the Lingthusiasm merch here.)

Selected twitter threads

Book-writing meta threads

Other threads 

Some books I enjoyed! 

Selected blog posts

I celebrated my seventh year blogging at All Things Linguistic! Here are some of my favourite posts from this year:

A series on Weird Internet Careers

Memes and linguist humour 

Other Linguistics 

Things about languages 

Linguistics jobs interviews

Lists and how to

Missed out on previous years? Here are the summary posts from 20132014201520162017, and 2018. If you’d like to get a much shorter monthly highlights newsletter via email, with all sorts of interesting internet linguistics news, you can sign up for that at gretchenmcc.substack.com.

 

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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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.

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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.

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.

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

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

BecauseInternet_FacebookCover_cropped

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.

Selected tweets:

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.

because internet galley in front of a plant.jpg

November 2018: Book title (BECAUSE INTERNET), Lingthusiasm liveshows, PatreCon, CoEDL, and more Australia talks

My book about internet language officially has a title and publication date! Look for BECAUSE INTERNET: UNDERSTANDING THE NEW RULES OF LANGUAGE in July 2019, and you can put your email address here if you want to get a link when it’s available.

My second Wired column went up: Why do some mid-sized languages, like Swedish, have extensive internet resources, while others with the same or larger speaker populations do not?

I’ve spent most of this month in Australia! (I did stop by PatreCon, a conference for Patreon creators, on my way.) Here’s a thread of linguistic reflections on being a Canadian in Australia.

We did our long-anticipated Lingthusiasm liveshows in Sydney and Melbourne! It was amazing to meet so many old and new fans of the show and compare notes on Australianisms, Canadianisms, and how people talk on the internet. The liveshow recording will be up in a few months for the rest of the world.

The main Lingthusiasm episode was about why C and G come in hard and soft versions, and more about palatal sounds, and the bonus episode was an inside view into academic conferences and how to have a good time at them. The Lingthusiasm merch is now finalized for the season, so you can order it for the holidays with confidence!

I also went to Canberra for the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) Summer School, where I gave a public lecture on internet linguistics and taught a class on linguistics communication (see course notes and readings on the @LingComm twitter account). A few tweets from talks, plus threads about the Linguistics Roadshow and linguistics escape rooms.

I also did talks at University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, and Monash University, and radio interviews on ABC Melbourne and ABC Canberra.

I also did a short thread about An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s photo is a shot of the table where Lauren Gawne and I were preparing for the Lingthusiasm liveshow, complete with Real Australian Flat Whites! table lingthusiasm liveshow prep flat whites melbourne.jpg

October 2018: Wired Resident Linguist, Scintillation, #AoIR2018, and Lingthusiasm’s second anniversary

I’ve started writing a Resident Linguist column for Wired! My first article is about Voldemorting, birdsite, The Cheeto, and other ways of hiding words in plain sight online.

I was in this video on NBC about teen slang and this article about “ish” in work emails.

I attended Scintillation, where I was on panels about linguistic worldbuilding and the future of English in science fiction, and the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conferences, both in Montreal.

The Lingthusiasm main episode was about how Every word is a real word and the bonus episode was about bringing up bilingual babies. (Lingthusiasm is now also officially on Spotify.)

It’s our second anniversary of Lingthusiasm! To celebrate, we’re trying to help the show reach more people by encouraging current listeners to give us a shoutout on social media. Here’s a helpful roundup post with links to all the current episodes that you can share, and we’ll thank everyone who recommends us in a special anniversary post!

I livetweeted the linguistics bits from the new book HOW TO INVENT EVERYTHING as well as a short thread about linguistics aspects of Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Many great linguistics Halloween costumes.

At the end of the month, I head to PatreCon and Australia! Here’s my Australia conferences and talks schedule.

Selected tweets:

Selected blog posts:

This month’s image is the new Space Baby art from Lingthusiasm, which is available as a poster, art print, scarf, stickers and more!

space babies bookshelfie