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Because Internet

Understanding the New Rules of Language
Written by: Gretchen McCulloch
Narrated by: Gretchen McCulloch
Length: 8 hrs
5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER!!

A linguistically informed look at how our digital world is transforming the English language.

“Gretchen McCulloch is the internet’s favorite linguist, and this book is essential reading. Reading her work is like suddenly being able to see the matrix.” (Jonny Sun, author of everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too)

Because Internet is for anyone who's ever puzzled over how to punctuate a text message or wondered where memes come from. It's the perfect book for understanding how the internet is changing the English language, why that's a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are. 

Language is humanity's most spectacular open-source project, and the internet is making our language change faster and in more interesting ways than ever before. Internet conversations are structured by the shape of our apps and platforms, from the grammar of status updates to the protocols of comments and @replies. Linguistically inventive online communities spread new slang and jargon with dizzying speed. What's more, social media is a vast laboratory of unedited, unfiltered words where we can watch language evolve in real time.

Even the most absurd-looking slang has genuine patterns behind it. Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explores the deep forces that shape human language and influence the way we communicate with one another. She explains how your first social internet experience influences whether you prefer "LOL" or "lol," why ~sparkly tildes~ succeeded where centuries of proposals for irony punctuation had failed, what emoji have in common with physical gestures, and how the artfully disarrayed language of animal memes like lolcats and doggo made them more likely to spread.

©2019 Gretchen McCulloch (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“McCulloch lays out the ways in which online lingo, from emojis to GIFs to acronyms like "lol" and "omg," has become a vital part of modern communication. It's also an analog window into how the evolution of digital communication mirrors the shifts in word usage that have happened over generations.” (Wired, “Must-Read Books of Summer")

Because Internet is a rare gem: a groundbreaking scholarly study that's also approachable, personable, and funny. McCulloch guides the reader through the seeming disorder of internet-influenced communications and deftly contextualizes all of it: memes and gifs, emoji and emoticons, weird punctuation and no punctuation. Her enthusiasm for language is matched by her command over the subject; if you're worried that the internet has killed language, McCulloch's extensive examination will convince you otherwise. Because Internet is an absolute unit: a unique linguistic study, a history of the internet, a how-to, and an encouragement that the omgs and cat pictures have only brought us closer together.” (Kory Stamper, author of Word by Word)

"A funny and fascinating examination of the evolution of language in the digital age.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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Because awesome!

Gretchen writes an amazing book full of fascinating insights into what the internet is doing to the English language. She makes listening to the audiobook fun and you can hear the sparkles and the lol vs LOL. Buy it now!

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Because, You don't have to be a linguist ...

“Because, Internet: Understanding the new rules of language” by Gretchen McCulloch is one of the best books I have ever read. You don't need to be a linguist to appreciate this book! If you are intellectually curious and interested in communication, I strongly recommend this book to you. Here are five (of the many!) things that I learned from reading Because Internet:

- the history of internet communication (including references to relevant punctuation and grammar from decades and even centuries ago)
- a segmentation scheme of various “internet people”
- the use and proliferation of various acronyms, emojis, memes, GIFs…
- how we implicitly (and often accidentally) communicate things about ourselves though our use of punctuation, grammar, emojis, etc.
- why and how we can feel empowered to take note of and to have fun with punctuation (in emails, texts, on social media,…)

I first read (heard) this book on Audible, and now I bought a hardcover copy, something that I rarely do! I lamented the end of this book; it is a rare thing to learn so much and to be entertained at the same time. I didn’t want the book to end! Thank you to author and linguist, Gretchen McCulloch!

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Excellent insights and friendly, clear voice

Listening to Gretchen McCulloch speak on Internet Linguistics is a joy. She is clearly passionate about her subject, and conveys it in a way that thoroughly engages the reader (in this case the listener!). Her voice is very well modulated, and at the same time we can detect the humour that she finds in the many examples she uses to illustrate her points. I was very much amused by her pronunciation of dshglfeidj followed by qwreoitoiu!! The book is very well researched, with insights taken from the ancient Greeks as well as modern teen culture and many other linguists - both past and present. Although McCulloch is clearly very knowledgeable about the academic elements of linguistics, she keeps the book firmly aimed at the average reader/listener. Her whole manner conveys freshness with each new thought that she explores. I love this book!

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  • Ross Bennett
  • 2019-08-20

Why Do Authors Insist on Reading Their Own Books?

This is an interesting idea and from the best I can tell it's well-written. But for heavens sake, the narration is horrible. It sounds like the reader is trying to get through it as fast as possible. Worse, sketch out the pitches for each sentence and you have only two shapes—and they all end in such a low pitch some syllables are dropped. I really don't like this audiobook.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • P. Canniff
  • 2019-08-01

A good overview of the evolving language(s) of internet users

The author is a great reader. She does an awesome job with the typographical stuff - pronouncing “fadesmash” stuff like asdhfhshs, discussing lowercase ce uppercase, etc. without breaking the flow of the audiobook. She’s a little fast - this is one book I won’t be listening to on 1.25x speed.

The content is a welcome survey of the language of the internet. Even back to the old days of my youth. It’s really weird hearing about gaps in the written documentation of stuff a few decades ago! It greatly increases my sympathy for linguists dealing with issues centuries ago. And interesting to hear about a language area where written form is the primary form!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • 2019-08-18

Writing is good BUT...

I really wanted to be able to give this a better review because she has a lot of good things gonna in this book. It’s overall well-researched, well-organized, well-written, etc.

But it just didn’t grab me, and there were a few major issues I had with it.

First, she is an unapologetic Pollyanna about technological and linguistic change in the internet age. She subscribes to the belief that, at least to some extent, proper grammar and punctuation and grammar are “elitist.” I don’t necessarily feel that we should rigidly adhere to these rules at the expense of meaning, but it’s not about one or the other. We can have both. Further, she implies that all linguistic innovations are basically equal. I understand this is probably a way linguists keep themselves objective in their study of language, but I just can’t agree with that from an artistic, aesthetic, or functional perspective.

I recognize that not everyone is going to share my view that we should be wary of how technology is changing our lives—and of course I realize this book is about language—but for her to not even touch on the ways that the internet could be a bad thing for language and connection, is irresponsible and dumb. It may be the subject of debate whether our language is devolving with the internet, but it is a matter of fact that being constantly on our phones and computers is having major negative consequences for our health and ability to relate to each other. Surely there are ways to speak to this while still maintaining her optimistic position.

I wasn’t a fan of her getting into a couple of politically charged topics, either—in places she really didn’t have to and probably wasn’t trying to.

I found myself finishing the book with a deep sense of dissatisfaction, like something huge was missing and that I’d got nothing substantial from the book.


Finally, I found her narration style to be a little irritating in places, and sometimes a little too quick. When she says quotations trying to be funny, it comes off as annoying. She should have someone else narrate.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Gines Pasamonte
  • 2019-08-24

Insightful, Topical and Delightful

Gretchen McCulloch hits a grand slam with this book. She presents a cogent and entertaining story on how the usage of the English language has evolved in the past 25 years through its speakers' interactions on the internet both written and spoken. She presents her book in a comfortable, breezy and personal manner that not only shows her deep knowledge of the subject, but also love and enthusiasm for it. Take an 8 hour deep dive and learn the history and derivation of how you speak and write today while being supremely entertained.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • thaichicken
  • 2019-08-08

like lingthusiasm, but longer

gretchen mcculloch has had a fair amount of practice recording about linguistics for a broad audience, in her and lauren gawne's podcast "lingthusiasm". she brings all that skill and more to this fabulous book, which she skillfully wrote, narrated, and even adapted in certain places for the benefit of audio readers. if you've ever wanted to hear exactly what askldjsahgmsba sounds like, or what the voice of lolcats is, listen to this recording. every ounce of mcculloch's excitement about her research is made clear in her writing and then doubled by her narration. far from a serene and neutral david attenborough kind of story telling, mcculloch right there with you, inviting you into her awesome conversation with the world and leading you fearlessly and joyfully forward into the future of language, culture, and relationships.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel Klein
  • 2019-11-07

Language is fundamentally human

I loved this entire book. It had so many moments that made me explain out loud or walk over to my long suffering spouse to let them know about a cool fact I just learned, and it also had so many insights that made me feel *seen* and understood as a person who grew up on the internet in the 90s.

From how Twitter empowered dialect mapping to a very powerful and convincing argument for emojis as gestures, this book has changed how I think about the internet and the way we talk on there.

But fundamentally it was a reminder for this lapsed linguist how language is so very fundamentally human and how understanding language requires understanding human intentions and group behavior. It's a great reminder to look at utterances and, instead of saying "you said that wrong" to ask yourself "wow I wonder why you said it this way".

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  • DMMP
  • 2019-10-29

Vocal Fry

The book has interesting bits and pieces. At times I felt the author was more worried about being an internet insider than giving her readers something they didn't know. McCulloch has a witty and engaging style, I'm sure she'll give us a more memorable book about linguistics in the future.
Ah, and next time, allow a professional to read the book. The vocal fry and garbled speech when reading a joke was a bit annoying.

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  • Failure31
  • 2019-09-04

Fascinating, Fun, and Funny

Gretchen McCulloch somehow manages to be authoritative and and charming without being smarmy or haughty. I for one welcome our new Canadian linguist overlords.

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  • Cliente de Amazon
  • 2019-08-06

Super fun, informative and well researched

Super fun, informative and well researched. If you like language, English and the internet, get this book!

I listened to the audiobook version, which also helped me understand how native English speakers hear memes and Internet speak in their heads.

I’ll have to get the text version for academic reference, it has lots of very interesting and quotable concepts.

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  • Andrew M.
  • 2019-08-04

The rules you didn't know you knew

As a late 20's nerd who grew up on the internet a bit before the social media explosion (a full internet person as described by Gretchen), this book paints a delightful picture of internet communication. Often times it puts into words things I'm uncomfortably familiar with, illuminated things I've never considered but always known, or told me things I had never realized (like how the strange punctuation your older relatives use can also be seen in postcards). I can't think of anybody I wouldn't recommend this book to, and I can't wait to spend even more time obsessing over when to use or omit my next punctuation mark.