March 2010

Interview on CNN Newsroom about the heated rhetoric after the passage of health care reform.

(Show page, transcript)

Simon Glickman and Julia Rubiner, “Ben Zimmer Hits the Big Time” (Editorial Emergency, “Editorializing” newsletter, Mar. 26, 2010)

We’ve known and cherished Ben Zimmer for some time as the editor of word-nerd destination The Visual Thesaurus; in that capacity he’s done us the honor of syndicating material originally created for “Editorializing” — and taught us a thing or two via both his published articles and delightful correspondence. We’re not alone in recognizing the man’s prose-writing prowess, editorial acumen and garrulous grace, however: Ben has been tapped to succeed the legendary William Safire as the New York Times Magazine’s “On Language” columnist. Safire launched “On Language” in 1979, and his departure for The Great Reference Library in the Sky left huge shoes to fill. But we feel confident that Ben has big feet. We wish him great success.

Interview on “The Walt Bodine Show” (KCUR Kansas City) about “The Birth and Life Cycle of Words” (Mar. 25, 2010)

How does a new word get born? How would you know that something had gone from being someone’s off-hand expression to becoming a legitimate part of the language? Why do some words take root while others never catch on? And how do words change over time? Today, we are joined by one of our regular wizards of words, as well as Ben Zimmer, who just this week succeeded the legendary William Safire as the writer of the weekly “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine.

(Show page, audio)

Clay Lambert, “On Language Moves On” (The Kicker, Wick Communications, Mar. 25, 2010)

There is a new word sheriff in town. And it’s that guy on the left.

His name is Ben Zimmer. (By the way, the guy on the right is the late William Safire.) He is executive producer of and something called “the visual thesaurus.” That last one is pretty incredible. Take a look for yourself.

The New York Times Magazine has announced that Zimmer will take over for the Safire and begin to write the iconic “On Language” column. Those are some mighty big shoes and I don’t envy Zimmer the task, but I guess someone who studied linguistics at Yale and is a consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary is probably up to the task.

Read the rest here.

Slate’s Culture Gabfest No. 79 (Mar. 24, 2010)

In this week’s Culture Gabfest, our critics Mike Pesca, Jody Rosen, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner discuss the death of Big Star front man Alex Chilton, the Boston Globe‘s recent attack on music criticism, and Ben Zimmer, William Safire’s replacement at the New York Times.

(Show page, streaming audio, download, segment runs from 26:20 to 35:20)

Gerald Marzorati, “On Language With Ben Zimmer” (New York Times Magazine, Mar. 21, 2010)

For more than 30 years, William Safire talked back to Americans about how they went about talking. He founded our On Language column in February 1979 and proceeded to write tens of thousands of words about phrases (fashionable and not), usages (proper and not), roots (definitive and not) and his own donnish taste — not! Bill was a democrat — very small “d” — with a passion for everyday discourse and a desire not for the last word but for a conversation about conversation. Long before the Internet came along (and provided him with a fresh trove of linguistic stuff), he built a Web-like community of language mavens who fed him tips, amplified, hondled (that’s for you, Bill!) and filled in from time to time when he took his summer vacation.
One of those mavens (he was actually among those vaunted few Lexicographic Irregulars whom Bill expected to keep him on his toes) was Ben Zimmer, and this week he takes over as the magazine’s On Language columnist.

Read the rest here.

Interview with Renee Montagne on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about taking over the “On Language” column.

When William Safire died last September, the veteran columnist for The New York Times left vacant a post that he had filled for more than 30 years. Safire originated the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine in 1979 and continued to write it until his death.

This week, the Times Magazine announced the name of the man who would take over the role of exploring and increasing the vocabularies of Americans: Ben Zimmer.

The name should be familiar to word fans already. Zimmer is the executive producer of two Web sites, and, that cater to word freaks. After Safire died, Zimmer wrote the column remembering his colleague’s contribution to linguistics. Still, Zimmer admits that his predecessor’s shadow is long.

“It is a little intimidating, I have to say, especially because I can’t reproduce William Safire’s very distinctive voice,” Zimmer tells NPR’s Renee Montagne. “I’ll put my own stamp on it. I’ll come at it in some ways in a more scholarly way because of my background in linguistics and linguistic anthropology. But also, I will be casting a wide net. You know, everything from technology to pop culture, high-brow, low-brow, everything in between. I’ll be on the lookout for all sorts of new developments that are happening in language.”

(Show page, audio, transcript; see also Media Bistro: FishbowlNY)

Interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” about taking over the “On Language” column.

Linguist, lexicographer and the new “On Language” columnist for the New York Times Magazine, Ben Zimmer, talks about the latest in political language and about how he’ll approach taking over for the late William Safire, the founder of the “On Language” column.

(Show page, streaming audio, download)

Interview with WCBS Newsradio about taking over the “On Language” column.

Someone new is now writing for the ‘On Language’ column in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
Ben Zimmer’s first column is in this Sunday’s Magazine in his new position as the main columnist.
Zimmer talks with WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack and tells her how it feels to step into the shoes of the late William Safire.
“It’s a deep honor and privilege of course. It’s a bit daunting though, he was such a distinctive voice and writing that column for 30 years. I remember being very young, nine or 10 and I was already a big language buff and so I would read his column religiously. So, I recognize definitely big shoes to fill but I’m really excited about the opportunity,” said Zimmer.

(Show page, streaming audio, download)

Interview with Patt Morrison on Southern California Public Radio about taking over the “On Language” column.

The New York Times Magazine’s “On Language” column has a new voice, lexicographer and linguist Ben Zimmer. Zimmer, who also serves as executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and, has a big sentence structure to fill. He’ll succeed the late wordsmith William Safire, who founded the column in 1979 and was the regular columnist until he died last fall. Will the column change… we’ll find out this weekend when Ben Zimmer takes over.

(Show page, audio)