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Why your parents use emojis, periods, and all-caps all wrong

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch explains how the internet transformed language for the better on The Ezra Klein Show.


Gretchen McCulloch is a self-described “internet linguist,” host of the podcast Lingthusiasm, and author of the recent book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. In it, she demonstrates that the way we’ve come to speak on the internet — from emojis to exclamation points — is not random or arbitrary, but part of a broader attempt to make our written communication more vibrant, meaningful, and, genuinely human. Far from “ruining” the written English language, internet-speak, McCulloch argues, is revolutionizing language in unprecedented, and ultimately positive, ways.

We discuss why I feel bad if I don’t use enough exclamation points (or use too many), why postcards are the pre-internet predecessors to Instagram, how emojis act as written equivalents of our body language, why sarcasm is like a “linguistic trust fall,” the meaning of “OK boomer” and much more.

Book recommendations:

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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