Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language – Gretchen McCulloch

I keep a blog or two that almost no one reads, for no other reason than personal vanity. I think that should tell you plenty about my personality. I am a bit of a weirdo, and proud to be one. But it has some negative side-effects. I still think and write in long-form (except for this blog, which is an exercise (and failure) in concision), which to me is increasingly starting to feel like painting in oil colors or going to the opera – of course people do it, but when you learn that someone does it, you wonder a little bit why they don’t do something more normal. Why and how I am a complete failure at normalcy (I don’t oil paint. I have repeatedly and of my own volition gone to the opera. Bite me) is a post better served over at my sister blog, but I bring it up to touch upon the biggest negative impact my weirdo-ness has had on me.

I can’t text. At all.

Despite being of the cohort that grew up with chat in my teen years, I didn’t really have many friends to speak to. The struggle to make friends continued into my 20’s and into my 30’s (now), and while I made some friends in the process (I’m not that unlikeable) none of them were ever online. Most of my friendships are with people that I actually fucking phone once a year, as if this were the fucking 80’s or something. This has made some aspects of my life unfathomably hard, as people build trust online through chatting, which I can’t do. Someone once told me texting with me was like speaking with a foreigner whose grammar and vocab was superior to theirs.

If my sad-sack story has intrigued you, then you should pick up Gretchen McColloch’s Because Internet. It is a look at what exactly is going on with all the new-fangled internet speech from the point of view of an actual certified experts. The focus of the book is resisting the curmudgeon’s urge to merely write everything off as the wrong-headed wrong-speech of the youths. It is obviously not as simple as that, and linguistics is almost exclusively descriptivist as a field. And that is exactly what this is.

I enjoyed Because Internet because it is 100% in my wheelhouse and I just generally enjoy the work that Gretchen McCulloch puts forth into the world (like her podcast, Lingthusiasm), but I have to confess that at least part of me was truly hoping this book would help me learn how to actually speak to fellow humans online, a least a little bit. Alternatively, I was reading this considering if it would be a good thing to pass along to my even-more-curmudgeonly father to try to get him to perhaps calm down a little but with the whole ‘kids these days’ bit, but wondered to what extent he would be able to follow along. I thought the book was pretty accessible for me, but there were moments where I wondered if that would be the case for everyone. I have a pretty strong background in linguistics, and while I can’t seem to chat online I am not oblivious to internet culture.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s