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Sobre el autocorrector I

Tools like spellcheck, grammarcheck, autocomplete, and speech-to-text impose someone’s ideas of the rules of English automatically—invisible authorities that we can defy but not avoid. If a writing handbook like Lowth’s or Strunk and White’s displeases you, you can throw it across the room or leave it to gather dust, but when you want to type a word that’s not in a predictive text model, you’ll fight for every letter.

Sobre el autocorrector II

Despite my many objections, I still use spellcheck and predictive text. Most of the time, they’re pretty useful! I don’t have to remember the c-to-s ratio in “necessary” or the exceptions to the “i before e” rule, which surely frees up valuable brain cells, and I can simply add words like lowercase “internet” to my phone’s dictionary. But I also wonder what a world would look like where none of us cared about such things in the first place.

Sobre la rapidez de los cambios del lenguaje en Internet

The researchers concluded that both strong and weak ties have an important role to play in linguistic change: the weak ties introduce the new forms in the first place, while the strong ties spread them once they’re introduced. The internet, then, makes language change faster because it leads to more weak ties: you can remain aware of people who you don’t see anymore, and you can get to know people who you never would have met otherwise. The phenomenon of a hashtag or funny video going viral is an example of the power of weak ties—when the same thing is shared only through strong ties, it ends up merely as an inside joke.

Sobre los signos de exclamación

The exclamation mark is frequently repurposed to indicate warmth or sincerity, rather than just excitement. After all, to be excited to meet someone or help someone is also to be sincere about it. This change is well under way: a 2006 study by Carol Waseleski found that in emails, exclamation marks were infrequently used to indicate excitement, occurring only 9.5 percent of the time with either strong language, like “These damn programs are out of touch with reality!” or effusive thanks, like “Thank you so much for your comments—they are very, very helpful and the list of resources is wonderful!” In comparison, exclamation marks indicated friendliness 32 percent of the time (“See you there!” “I hope this helps!”) and emphasized statements of fact another 29.5 percent of the time (“There’s still time to register!”).

Sobre Shakespeare y los emojis

Thinking of emoji as gestures helps put things into perspective: if we’re tempted to start thinking, “If words were good enough for Shakespeare, why aren’t they good enough for us?” we can pause and realize that plain words weren’t actually good enough for Shakespeare. A lot of what Shakespeare wrote was plays, designed not to be read on a page, but to be performed by people. How many of us have struggled through reading Shakespeare as a disembodied script in school, only to see him come to life in a well-acted production? Or, to take a more contemporary example, when the long-awaited, next-generation story Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out in book form, it got mixed reviews. People who saw the play generally really enjoyed it, but people who just read the script were more polarized. If Shakespeare and J. K. Rowling can’t make disembodied dialogue feel natural, what hope is there for J. Q. Notapoet, our average internet user?

Sobre las videollamadas

This shift in norms is responsible for finally popularizing videocalling. The technology for the videophone has been available since the 1960s—it’s just a telephone spliced with a television, after all. Pundits kept predicting it, but it never seemed to catch on. The problem with videocalling was that it faced an insurmountable social obstacle: with a robust norm of always answering a ringing phone and no efficient way to plan a phone call except via the same medium, the risk was too great of catching someone unclothed or with a messy house in the background. Picking up a videocall out of the blue was simply too awkward to contemplate. But since every videochat program includes a text messaging feature, you can plan a videochat before committing to one (“hey, you ready to skype?” “just give me 2 min”) and this awkwardness vanishes: you have the option to decline via text where no one can see you, or a minute to scramble into a decent-looking shirt. Paradoxically, having access to the lesser intrusiveness of chat conversations makes it easier to have higher-bandwidth conversations in video.

Sobre la finitud de los libros y la infinitud de Internet

When we thought of language as a book, we thought of it as linear and finite. A book can only have so many pages, so you have to decide what to keep in, what to fence out, and how to order what remains. If you and I buy the same dictionary, we read the same exact words, making it seem like there is a single, finite English language that everyone agrees upon, which can be contained between two covers. But the internet has no beginning or end, and it’s growing faster than any one person can follow. Sure, it does technically take up space, in the form of fiberoptic cables running under oceans and chilled rows of hard drives in data centers, but while a book is always telling your hands how many pages it has left, an internet device is a portal to a universe bigger than you can fathom.


Además del libro también les recomiendo el podcast de Gretchen McCulloch: Lingthusiasm – A podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics