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:
- Two (!!) reviews in the New York Times, by Jennifer Szalai (NYT Daily) and Clay Shirky (NYT Book Review)
- Two reviews in the New Yorker, by Katy Waldman and Mary Norris
- Reviews in: The Economist, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Science Magazine, The Times (of London), the Observer/Guardian, BBC Science Focus.
- NPR: All Things Considered and Science Friday
- BBC World News
- Trade reviews: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly (starred), Booklist, and Library Journal
- Podcasts: The Cracked Podcast, The Allusionist, Grammar Girl, Slate’s “Lexicon Valley”, New York Times Book Review podcast, The Ezra Klein Show
- Lists: TIME’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019, Goodreads Choice Award Semifinalist, an Amazon Best Nonfiction Book of 2019
- My publisher made me a special leather-bound version of Because Internet in celebration of it becoming a New York Times bestseller. It’s beautiful.
- I have a Wikipedia page now and someone dressed up as my book for Halloween!
- We Learned to Write the Way We Talk (New York Times Op Ed)
- How Can You Appreciate 23rd-Century English? Look Back 200 Years (New York Times Op-Eds From the Future)
- We Will Have Meme Folklorists (New York Magazine)
- How to use irony on the internet (Wall Street Journal)
- The Big Idea: Writing towards the future (John Scalzi’s Whatever)
Wired Resident Linguist column:
- Children are using emoji for digital-age language learning
- Predictive text presents the best version of you
- Coding is for everyone — as long as you speak English
- Fans are better than tech at organizing information online (about the Archive of Our Own)
- The meaning of all caps — in texting and in life (excerpt from Because Internet)
- New emoji are so boring — but they don’t have to be
- Boomerspeak is now available for your parodying pleasure
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 collaborated on several Language Files videos with youtuber Tom Scott:
- why typing like this is sometimes okay.
- Why “No Problem” can seem rude: Phatic expressions
- The language sounds that could exist, but don’t
- Can the words you read change your behaviour?
- Why do we move our hands when we talk?
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:
- How languages influence each other – Interview with Hannah Gibson on Swahili, Rangi, and Bantu languages
- The verb is the coat rack that the rest of the sentence hangs on
- Why do we gesture when we talk? (also a video episode!)
- Pop culture in Cook Islands Māori – Interview with Ake Nicholas
- You heard about it but I was there – Evidentials
- Why spelling is hard – but also hard to change
- Emoji are Gesture Because Internet
- Putting sounds into syllables is like putting toppings on a burger
- Villages, gifs, and children – Interview with Lynn Hou on signed languages in real-world contexts (also a video episode!)
- Smell words, both real and invented
- Many ways to talk about many things – Plurals, duals, and more
- How to rebalance a lopsided conversation
- Naming people (and especially babies)
- How the internet is making English better (liveshow from Melbourne)
- Adapting your language to other people
- How do radio announcers know how to pronounce all the names? With guest Tiger Webb
- Talking with dogs, horses, ravens, dolphins, bees, and other animals
- North, left, or towards the sea? With guest Alice Gaby
- Words from your family – Familects!
- Welcome aboard the metaphor train!
- Behind the scenes on Because Internet (Q&A)
- Jobs, locations, family, and invention – Surnames
- Reading fiction like a linguist
- The sounds of sheep, earthquakes, and ice cream – Onomatopoeia
We also made new Lingthusiasm merch, including items with the best esoteric Unicode symbols on them, adding 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
- Expanding the linguistics bookshelf
- How you can order a book you’re excited about from your local library
- What I’ve learned about autographs and signing pens
- How to preorder a book from your local indie bookstore
- A very meta thread on how to promote your book on social media without being annoying
- Leaving online book reviews, why they’re important and how to do them
- What blogging taught me about research and writing
- Was not expecting how many people would tell me that my book made them cry
- Adding linguistics programming to not-explicitly-linguistic conferences
- Because Internet as other objects that are also yellow and light blue: a thread
- What happens when “machine learning” looks at your book with a yellow and black cover and decides what other products are relevant
- On being a walking dictionary: a very on-brand story
- Symbols of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) as brands of IPA (India Pale Ale)
- A relationship between faceblindness and letter recognition ability
- I managed to find a linguistic angle to a major Canadian sporting event
- Direction words in various languages
- The best phone keyboard autocorrect error story I have encountered
- Poll/replies threads on “and” versus “&” and about your early internet usernames and why (especially how you chose the numbers)
- The most frequent words make up the majority of ANY English corpus (a thread that led into the Inverse Upgoer Five Challenge)
- “linguists are not kidding when they say that language enables you to understand sentences that have never been said before in the entirety of human history”
- The genre of photo captions using directional parentheses to create humourous implicatures
- The raised initial c in Mc surnames
Some books I enjoyed!
- Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
- Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
- This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
- How To by Randall Munroe
- Language Unlimited by David Adger
- You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane
- Tensorate series by JY Yang
- Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
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
- Part I – What is a Weird Internet Career?
- Part II – How I Built a Weird Internet Career as an Internet Linguist
- Part III – How to start a Weird Internet Career
- Part IV – How to make money doing a Weird Internet Career
- Part V – What can a Weird Internet Career look like?
- Part VI – Is it too late for me to start my Weird Internet Career?
- Part VII – How to level up your Weird Internet Career
Memes and linguist humour
- Linguistics takes on the Roses are red meme
- WUG is for the way you look at me
- Are your teens secretly texting about languages using ISO-639-3 codes?
- A very linguistic wedding cake
- “linguist with questions” as the goose in Untitled Goose Game
- Falkland Islands – new favourite example of pronunciation ambiguity from TikTok
- Linguistics Halloween photos
- Last Christmas / I gave you a chart
- Guide to making alveolar trills (as in Spanish “rr”)
- Babies sometimes think that “you” means “me”
- All words are made up words
- Verbing is a feature, not a bug
- How people with synesthesia map colours onto vowels
- An animation of what it’s like to have dyslexia
- Heaven’s Vault, a videogame about decoding an ancient language
- Affixes, explained by koalas
- A base-27 counting system on the human body
- Internet linguistics reading list from Maria Heath
- An analysis of the meaning behind different kinds of screenshots
- Bohemian Rhapsody but linguistics
- Why parrots can talk like humans
- Because Internet featured on the official tumblr books blog
- a classic tumblr post in Because Internet
- Wikipedia is helping keep Welsh alive online
- How Twitter is helping the Scots language thrive in the 21st century
- Voicemail and voice chat
- How grammatical systems cause machine translation mismatches
- The problems with how grammar is taught in grade school (comic)
- A linguist on what Baby Yoda’s first words might be
- No, that dog on instagram can’t really talk
- Watching a “language” develop when kids can’t speak to each other
Things about languages
- Using machine learning to decipher ancient Sumerian cuneiform
- Why hearing people should not make up a new sign
- The World’s Writing Systems website (which has posters!)
- Beowulf and discourse markers
- Court stenographers often misunderstand African American English
- The importance of mother-tongue education
- On studying emerging sign languages
- Mayan languages like K’iche’ and Mam in the US immigration court system
- Word length in Greenlandic
- Ænglisc Ἐτυμολογικal Speling Réforme
- Things that should happen in a sci fi story with a universal translator
- Lox: the English word that hasn’t changed in sound or meaning in 8000 years
- The chicken/poultry cow/beef animal/food loanword phenomenon also exists in isiXhosa
- The complicated decisions that come with digitizing indigenous languages
- The Bender Rule: why it matters to name the language(s) we study, even when it’s English
- Duolingo and smaller languages: useful, but also complicated
- Smartphone keyboard support for under-represented languages
- Language family maps around the world
Linguistics jobs interviews
- data scientist
- PR consultant
- school linguist
- internet linguist (me!)
- marketing content specialist
- software engineer
- communications specialist
- product manager
- learning scientist at Duolingo
Lists and how to
- How to type the International Phonetic Alphabet on your phone (iOS or Android), newly updated
- How to teach yourself linguistics online for free, revised and updated
- I updated my long list of recommended pop linguistics books and lingfic
- Linguistics Merch Gift Guide, 2019
- How to explain linguistics to your friends and family this holiday season, revised and updated
Missed out on previous years? Here are the summary posts from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 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.