Because Internet
  • icon
  • Anna's Archive icon
  • LibGen icon
  • Goodreads icon
  • Github icon
ibsn13: 9780735210936

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language discusses how we express ourselves on the internet, how we got here and where we’re going from the perspective of a linguist.

I’m always been in love with words but, somehow, I’ve gone through most of my life without studying linguistics at all.

I started listening to the Lingthusiasm podcast in early 2021. It took me a while (until early 2022) to read the book written by one of the hosts (Gretchen McCulloch), but here we are.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language is a book that discusses how we express ourselves on the internet, how we got here and where we’re going from the perspective of a linguist.

I am what the book refers to as a “Full Internet Person” having gotten online in the early 2000s, chatting with friends using MSN Messenger, then later Facebook and, eventually, I started writing super cringe blog posts on Tumblr (some might say that I never stopped).

One topic covered in the book is how the use of linguistic gestures/emblems online (like emoticons and emoji) has changed over the past few decades.

Gestures are an integral part of human nature and communication. They’re instinctual and they’re deeply ingrained in us.

Two people who are blind at birth, when speaking to each other, will make gestures despite neither of them being able to see the gestures.

Words are great, but by limiting ourselves to words and only words, we’re missing out on a wide range of tools we can use to express ourselves. Especially in informal contexts, where expressing how you feel quickly and easily, without having to be a genius writer, is useful.

In the letters that people used to write to each other (in a pre-internet world), it was quite common to see words mixed in with doodles of hearts and smiley faces.

We’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s just that the way we imbue gestures into our writing has changed as the technologies we use to communicate with each other have evolved.

In the West, we started off with emoticons like :-P, :(, ;) (the nose was dropped sometime in the 2000s).

In Asia, kaomoji were used in similar ways.




Sidenote: You’ll notice that emoticons tend to have similar eyes and different mouths whereas the opposite can be said for kaomoji. This is because in Asia, it’s more common for people to look at someone’s eyes when trying to figure out that person’s emotional state. Whereas people in the West tend to look at mouths instead.

This might explain why anime characters usually have gigantic eyes…

We have the Japanese to thank for many things, emoji is just one of them.1 In 1999, Shigetaka Kurita was inspired by the use of symbolic representations in manga, like a water drop on someone’s face to represent nervousness or confusion, and created one of the first emoji sets for cellphones.

In the late 2000s, Apple decided that they wanted their iPhones to support emojis specifically for the Japanese market. They did the work to make that happen and, finally, decided to add support for emojis across the globe.

Emojis caught on in a big way all over the world and, eventually, they became ubiquitous (if you’re chatting with someone on the internet in 2022, no matter what application you’re using, you probably have access to emojis and you likely use them quite a bit).

Because Internet also talks about the various ways in which people have tried to imbue tone of voice into their internet writing (with varying degrees of success).




Short utterances without punctuation like this might have been popular with the zoomers on Tumblr/Twitter?

I’m ~very~ excited about this ~new~ sarcasm marker.

But no, actually, I am. I’m probably going to be using the ~ quite a bit.



I don’t know how to end this.

Let’s metaphorically jump off this bridge together.

i like book

you should read it


  1. Negishi, Mayumi (March 26, 2014). “Meet Shigetaka Kurita, the Father of Emoji”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 16, 2015. ↩︎