Ben Zimmer Takes Over NYT Mag‘s ‘On Language’ Column

Zimmer-small03122010.jpgFormer dictionary editor Ben Zimmer will assume the late William Safire’s role as The New York Times Magazine‘s “On Language” columnist, the company announced yesterday.

Zimmer oversees word-mapping platform VisualThesaurus.com as well as Vocabulary.com. He has edited dictionaries for Oxford University Press and consults for the Oxford English Dictionary.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be welcomed in the space that William Safire called home for thirty years,” Mr. Zimmer said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing this fine tradition with my own take on how language shapes our past, present and future.”

Safire wrote the column from its 1979 debut until his death in September 2009. Since Safire’s passing, several writers — including Zimmer, journalist Caleb Crain and dictionary scholar Ammon Shea — have served as guest contributors.

Press release after the jump.


NEW YORK, Mar 11, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The New York Times Magazine announced today the appointment of linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer as the new “On Language” columnist. Mr. Zimmer succeeds William Safire who was the founding and regular columnist until his death last fall. The column is a fixture in The Times Magazine and features commentary on the many facets – from grammar to usage – of our language. “On Language” will appear bi-weekly beginning March 21.

In making the announcement, Gerald Marzorati, editor of the magazine said, “Ben brings both an academic’s deep knowledge and a maven’s eye, ear and passion to his commentary on the way Americans write and speak now. We welcome him to our roster and know our readers and ‘On Language’ devotees will greatly enjoy his columns.”

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be welcomed in the space that William Safire called home for thirty years,” Mr. Zimmer said. “I look forward to continuing this fine tradition with my own take on how language shapes our past, present and future.”

Mr. Zimmer is the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com, online destinations for learners and lovers of language. He is the former editor of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and is a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. He was previously a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research in Cognitive Science. He is a 1992 graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in linguistics. He studied linguistic anthropology at the University of Chicago and is the recipient of many fellowships including ones from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program and the Ford Foundation. He has taught at UCLA, Kenyon College, and Rutgers University. He was a frequent guest contributor to the “On Language” column, and his work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Slate and several language blogs. He is on the Executive Council of the American Dialect Society and a member of the Dictionary Society of North America.

Mr. Safire served as the “On Language” columnist from its inception in 1979 until his death in 2009. In his columns he parsed words, phrases and points of grammar and usage about our written and spoken language.