The changing language of the internet

Internet language

Since its commercial explosion in the 1990s, the internet has radically changed many aspects of our lives – the way we shop, how we communicate with each other, where we find out information, and in some cases where we work. It is even changing our very language, subtly but with great rapidity.

How the Internet internet changed the English language

Even the word ‘Internet’ has changed since its inception. While once upon a time spelling out the word with anything than other than a capital ‘I’ at the front would earn you a sharp reproach for failing to address a proper noun with the respect it deserved, these days it is more acceptable to use a lowercase ‘i’, denoting a common noun. Why? Possibly because the Internet was once a more definitive object in its own right, referring to a tangible network of computers, whereas today the internet has become a more abstract concept referring to the jumbled multitudes of information that can be found online.

Similarly, a ‘web site’ (as in, a site on the web) formed a new compound noun long ago to become ‘website’. This is just one example of the internet creating new language to describe the objects that exist within its virtual realms.

In many cases, the jury is still out on the specifics of these new terminologies that have been thrust into the English language, in many cases transitioning from buzz words to everyday words within the click of a mouse.

‘Electronic mail’, once a wonderfully exotic signifier of a brave new age, has since become a word used casually dozens of times a day in offices and homes throughout the world. Since becoming a commonly used term, electronic mail has also become a compound noun, using only the first letter of the adjective part. But even some dictionaries differ on the specifics, and forms of the word commonly seen include E-Mail, e-mail, E-mail and email.

Bloggers blogging on their blogs

‘Blog’ too has become a commonly used word in everyday conversation and serious journalism, to the extent that it’s easy to forget it is a relatively recent blend, or portmanteau, of ‘web log’. What’s more it’s even given birth to its own verbs, i.e. ‘blogging’ and ‘blog’, and descriptive terms for people who indulge in such activities (‘bloggers’).

Google meanwhile is an impressive example of a proper noun that has become a verb synonymous with searching the internet (to ‘google’ something), within little more than a decade.
Even more recently, social networks have brought yet more neologisms to the table, and these days people are so busy ‘tweeting’, ‘digging’ and ‘friending’, you’d be excused for mistaking the internet for some sort of bizarre loved-up hippy commune.

Like it or not, the internet is changing the way we use language at a tremendous pace. Once upon a time new words would take decades or more to imbed themselves in common use and dictionaries, whereas today’s instantaneous global communications mean the English language is very much at the mercy of whatever happens to be ‘trending’ at the time.