June 2011

Graeme Hamilton, “At the Dictionary Society of North America, Words Matter — a Lot” (National Post, June 11, 2011)

Benjamin Zimmer has been a dictionary buff since he was a child. The executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and former On Language columnist for the New York Times Magazine, remembers thumbing the onion-skin pages of the Webster’s Second New International Dictionary his family kept on a stand in his home.

During university 20 years ago, he volunteered as a reader for the OED, scouring music magazines for examples of new musical terms. He’s not bragging, but the dictionary’s inclusion of “techno-” to define sub-genres of music? That was him.

Read the rest here.

Karen Seidman, “Chillax, English is Always Evolving” (Montreal Gazette, June 10, 2011)

Welcome to the world of lexicography, where the guy who will be speaking Saturday about the emergence of the hip-hop lexis looks more like a Yale preppy (he was) than DJ Master Funk.

That would be Ben Zimmer, executive producer of visualthesaurus.com and vocabulary.com, the former New York Times Magazine language columnist who took over from esteemed etymologist William Safire, a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary and chairman of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee.

Yes, in other words, a major geek.

Read the rest here.

Interview on the CBC Radio show “Q with Jian Ghomeshi” about how hip-hop slang gets in the dictionary. (June 8, 2011)

Q: The Podcast 2011-06-08
Canadian journalist Robert MacNeil reflects on his career at PBS, a feature chat with TV director James Burrows on the secret to making people laugh for so many years and Lexicographer Ben Zimmer on hip-hop’s influence on popular slang, plus Mio!

(MP3 download; interview begins 52 minutes into the podcast)

Interview on NPR’s Morning Edition about what makes Spelling Bee words so difficult to spell. (June 1, 2011)

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is under way outside Washington, D.C., and over the next few days, 275 kids from ages 8 to 15 will put their spelling skills to the test.
“These kids are spending sometimes a few hours a day going through word lists” to learn the most difficult words in English, linguist Ben Zimmer tells NPR’s Renee Montagne. “Very often, they are coming from immigrant families that really prize learning English as part of becoming assimilated into American culture. So, my hat’s off to all of these young spellers.”

(Show page, audio, transcript, related Word Routes column; see also UPI, Newser)