This book was frustratingly difficult to read. It was borrowed because favorable reviews suggested it might help me understand how and why language has changed through the ascendance of the internet and social media. Although I appreciate the depth of meaning and color that English can bring to poetry and novels through its marvelous flexibility, when reading nonfiction, I prefer that denotative language be used to establish clarity and facilitate accessibility. When the author uses phrases like “a couple key features” (page 98) and “a couple main strategies” (page 123), I find myself longing for an “of” following the “couple,” distracting me from going straight to the comprehension of her arguments. Even as I type this, TCCL’s version of spellcheck tells me that there is something wrong with “get ahold” (page 112). She argues convincingly that “communicative practices which baffle us do have genuine, important meaning for the people who use them,” and I can agree with that. “A New Metaphor” is the final and clearest chapter in the book and made my struggle with the rest of it worth the effort.
The book is written entirely in the language of the internet. It is a history of internet language and a person’s ability to follow large parts of it depend on one’s knowledge of how online communication evolved. Speaking of which, her penultimate chapter on memes helped me understand a bit more about them. As the author mentions, Dawkins invented the word, and reading him was my introduction to the term. For some reason, that rather different context made it difficult for me to understand the new meaning ascribed to it. Still, a meme or two a day is enough for me, and the constant presence of these things in social media is tiresome.
But the point is, this is a history book, and as we all know, history is written by the winners.