Blackad bookshelf: a review of Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

Rachel McCallion

We love words. Pair that with our GIF obsession, and ‘Because Internet’ by Gretchen McCulloch was an obvious choice.

It’s a comprehensive look at how the internet is changing the way we use language. Written, typed, spoken, animated language.

You might think we’d be against something that gets in the way of a carefully crafted sentence. But no. Sometimes only a GIF of a cat playing the piano will do. 

What’s it all about?

McCulloch’s argument is that internet culture filtering into language isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a complex, fascinating and satisfying-to-read-about thing. 

Language is always changing. And as a key part of our daily communications, the internet plays a huge role in the way that happens. New words and turns-of-phrase are popularised in a matter of months thanks to memes, emails and social media. 

Because Internet looks at why.

Expect clear references and explanations, some of which might surprise even the most Instagram-savvy linguist. 

Why we loved it

Think your obsession with ‘LOL’ is no biggie? Think again. Gretchen paints us as pioneers. Texting and meme-ing our way towards a language revolution. Historians will probably study our tweets in years to come. Stick that on your CV. 

This book gave us a greater appreciation of the nonsensical gibberish we send each other. And so it should – the revolution will not be televised, it will be sent in the form of a dog GIF.

Where it lost marks

For a book about the internet, Gretchen missed a trick with the layout and formatting. It could definitely have been more user friendly, with shorter, sharper chunks of text. The long winding chapters, although interesting, tend to turn more towards academic evidence than world wide web examples. It’s more War and Peace than The Art of War. 

Our verdict

As champions of the clear message, we’ve kept our love of GIFs on the downlow. Until now. Reading this made us feel like a bookish Che Guevara. It taught us to embrace the way that the internet is shaping our language. And even to celebrate it. 

It’s a great read. But a word of warning to anyone looking for non-stop pop culture references: there’s also some more serious chat to sift through. 

Whether you’re a linguistics obsessive or a social media pro, it’s a great book with a lot of interesting insights. 

In summary…

Chris: “I found it interesting that there’s now a sort of catalogue of the constant movement of language with a universality that means everyone can contribute to it.”

Helen: “This book really changed my perspective on a lot of the ways we talk to each other online. It’s not nonsense, it’s history in the making.”

Alan: “The audiobook is a real giggle. Gretchen is an infectiously enthusiastic narrator, especially when she’s reading out strings of emojis.”  

Next steps

Order ‘Because Internet’ from Amazon

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Described as "beautiful and succinct". Shucks.