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Publisher's Summary

An Instant New York Times Best Seller!

Named a Best Book of 2019 by TIME, Amazon, and The Washington Post

A Wired Must-Read Book of Summer   

“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

Critic Reviews

“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.” (The New York Times

“McCulloch’s book is a good start in guiding readers to consider the wild language of the internet as a thing of wonder - a valuable feature, not a bug.” (The Wall Street Journal)  

 
“[An] effervescent study of how the digital world is transfiguring English.... [McCulloch’s] almost political thesis - the more voices, the better - rebukes both the élitism of traditional grammar snobs and the cliquishness of, say, Tumblr. It’s a vision of language as one way to make room for one another.” (The New Yorker

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What listeners say about Because Internet

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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.

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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!

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  • PO
  • 08-18-19

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.

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Interesting material ruined by narrator

I think this might be a really interesting book, but the material is buried under some sing song narration. The author reads every line conversationally and as if her every word is incredibly amusing. It was torture to listen to. If your interested, get the print edition.

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Probably better on paper

Unfortunately the audio version is not the best, there were several times I was confused about what text she was reading and what it actually looked like.

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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.

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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.

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Too Short!

Really the only ~flaw~ with this is that I wanted more! And that I'm hyper aware of the language I'm using in this review and how I'm typing it!

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This is so fun.

This book is amazing if you want to know more about linguistics, are writing about digital space vs. meet space. As I am writing a masters in anthropology about events that was turned digital do too plague I see this book as a good reference for my analysis in language.

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Enthusiastic narrator

the narrator is extremely enthusiastic and that adds a lot to the read itself. would recommend if you're interested in language augmented by technology, like memes

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  • The Wart
  • 08-06-19

fascinating and insight into internet culture

Book is really fascinating - not just as an analysis of internet language, but also of internet culture as a whole. At times even quite moving. Would have liked a bit more focus on actual language, but this book does a really wonderful job. now will be constantly analysing what I write and read on the internet. oh god it's happening now..... Gretchen McCulloch's reading is also very nice indeed

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  • G. Morgan
  • 08-03-19

Just a complete joy.

Educational in that way that points out the blisteringly obvious thing you hadn’t articulated (emojis aren’t language and couldn’t possibly replace it) but in a way that is engaging and joyful, the clear passion of the author/reader is again just brilliant, especially as she conveys key smash text into sounds. Highly recommend.

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  • Echo Linker
  • 12-21-21

engaging and fun

amazing read (listen)! gretchen was so engaging and the content was fantastic – i've already recommended it to friends and family.

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  • Ari
  • 08-11-19

educational and engaging

hyper aware of the fact we are listening it which is really great! very immersive and interactive!

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  • V
  • 07-25-19

great book read in fluent internet

such enjoy
much fluent
wow

good work gretchen!!!!!!! 😀
the content and performance made this a great read!!!
read exactly how it would sound in my head

would reccomend for any interested in linguistics and/or internet culture