February 2011

Clip from interview on WCBS Newsradio about how language and technology are becoming increasingly mixed. (Feb. 25, 2011)

(Show page, related On Language column)

Interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” about the performance of IBM’s Watson computer on Jeopardy! (Feb. 17, 2011).

On Language columnist for the New York Times Magazine Ben Zimmer and Stephen Baker, author of Final Jeopardy: Man vs Machine and the Quest to Know Everything talk about how the IBM’s super computer won last night on Jeopardy! and what it means when artificial beats human intelligence.


(Show page, streaming audio, download, related Atlantic Monthly piece, Word Routes column)

Interview on “The Conversation” (KUOW Seattle) about how IBM’s Watson computer performed on Jeopardy! (Feb. 17, 2011)

Language, Humans, And Our Robot Overlords: Watson the computer crushed the human competition on “Jeopardy!” this week. How well did Watson’s language processor handle all the bad puns and double entendres in the Jeopardy clues? New York Times language columnist Ben Zimmer rates Watson’s performance.

(Show page, RealAudio, MP3, download, related Atlantic Monthly piece, Word Routes column. Segment begins about 11 minutes into the show.)

Interview on WABC’s “The John Batchelor Show” on the tech-driven language of protest in Egypt. (Feb. 16, 2011)

(Show page, audio, related Week in Review piece. Segment begins at 9 minutes in the podcast.)

Interview on WBBM Newsradio (Chicago) about IBM’s Watson computer’s appearance on Jeopardy! (Feb. 16, 2011)

(Streaming audio, download, begins at 21 min. in the podcast)

Johnson, the language blog of The Economist, talks about English and Arabic wordplay inspired by the Egyptian protests.

I’M LOOKING forward to the piece Ben Zimmer says he’ll be writing for this weekend’s New York Times on the creative uses of language in the anti-Mubarak protests. But one thing that Mr Zimmer notes—a contest to make Mr Mubarak’s name a verb—is going to be hard in Arabic, and this game may have to be played in English.

Read the rest here. (Related Word Routes column, Week in Review piece)

John Timpane, “A Linguistic Blizzard for All These Snowstorms” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 9, 2011).

Ben Zimmer is the “On Language” columnist for the New York Times Magazine and executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com websites. He writes by e-mail that words such as snowmageddon are portmanteau words, in which two words are joined cleverly together. In the case of weather words, “a weather term is playfully grafted with another word segment for purposes of emphasis or exaggeration.” He says snow talk can get “ludicrously melodramatic” when “snowstorms are likened to apocalyptic end times.” And he allows as how he’s feeling a little “snowmanteau fatigue.”

Read the rest here.