Ben Zimmer

American linguist and lexicographer (born 1971)
  • Linguist
  • lexicographer
  • Dick Zimmer (father)
RelativesCarl Zimmer (brother)

Benjamin Zimmer (born 1971)[1] is an American linguist, lexicographer, and language commentator. He is a language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and contributing editor for The Atlantic. He was formerly a language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine, and editor of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. Zimmer was also an executive editor of and[2][3][4]


Zimmer graduated from Yale University in 1992 with a BA in linguistics, and went on to study linguistic anthropology at the University of Chicago.[1] For his research on the languages of Indonesia, he received fellowships from the National Science Foundation,[5] the Fulbright Program,[6] and the Social Science Research Council.[7] He taught at the University of California, Los Angeles; Kenyon College; and Rutgers University.[1]

In 2005, Zimmer was named a research associate at the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania and became a regular contributor to Language Log, a group weblog on language and linguistics.[8] He was named editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press in 2006,[9] and the next year launched "From A to Zimmer", a weekly lexicography column on the Oxford University Press blog.[10]

In 2008, Zimmer was appointed executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, an interactive reference tool from Thinkmap, Inc.[11] He edits the online content of the Visual Thesaurus and its sister site, and writes a regular column on word origins, "Word Routes".[1]

Zimmer's research on word origins was frequently cited by William Safire's "On Language" column for The New York Times Magazine. On March 11, 2010, Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati announced Zimmer's appointment as the new "On Language" columnist, succeeding Safire, the founding and regular columnist until his death in late 2009.[12] Zimmer's last "On Language" column was published on February 27, 2011. In it, Zimmer wrote that the column was "finally coming to a close" and that "it [was] time to bid adieu, after some 1,500 dispatches from the frontiers of language."

On December 18, 2011, The Boston Globe announced that Zimmer would be a regular language columnist for the newspaper's Sunday Ideas section.[13] His Globe column continued until June 28, 2013, when he began a new weekly language column for The Wall Street Journal's Saturday Review section, "Word on the Street".[14]

Zimmer's writing on language has appeared in two blog anthologies: Ultimate Blogs (Vintage, 2008, ISBN 978-0-307-27806-7)[15][16] and Far from the Madding Gerund (William, James, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59028-055-3).[17][18] He has also written for Slate,[19] The New York Times Book Review,[20] The New York Times Sunday Review,[21] and The Atlantic.[22]

Zimmer is the chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee and has served on the society's Executive Council.[23] He is also a member of the Dictionary Society of North America.[24]

The Linguistic Society of America gave Zimmer its first ever Linguistics Journalism Award in 2014.[25] In January 2017, Zimmer was one of the speakers in the LSA's inaugural Public Lectures on Language series.[26]

Personal life

Zimmer lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his wife Maria and son Blake Zimmer.[4] He is the brother of science writer Carl Zimmer and the son of former New Jersey congressman Dick Zimmer.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d Yaccino, Steven (May–June 2011). "Away with words". University of Chicago Magazine. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  2. ^ Zimmer, Ben. "Ben Zimmer". LinkedIn.
  3. ^ "Ben Zimmer". Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  4. ^ a b "About Ben Zimmer". Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  5. ^ "Graduate students lead nation in Fulbright awards". University of Chicago Chronicle. 1997-06-12. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  6. ^ "Graduate students receive the most Fulbrights". University of Chicago Chronicle. 1999-06-10. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  7. ^ "International Dissertation Research Fellowships, 1999 Fellows". Social Science Research Council. Archived from the original on 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  8. ^ "Author profile, Benjamin Zimmer". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  9. ^ Newman, Andrew Adam (2007-11-10). "How Dictionaries Define Publicity: The Word of the Year". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  10. ^ Grathwohl, Casper (2007-06-27). "It's Coming... An A To Zimmer Introduction". OUPblog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  11. ^ "Editor for American Dictionaries at Oxford joins Visual Thesaurus Team". Thinkmap, Inc. 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  12. ^ "The New York Times Magazine Names Ben Zimmer as 'On Language' Columnist". Business Wire. 2010-03-11. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  13. ^ Zimmer, Ben (2011-12-18). "What we talked about in 2011". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-12-31. This week marks Ben Zimmer's debut as a regular Word columnist for Ideas.
  14. ^ Zimmer, Ben (2013-06-28). "'Cyber' Dons A Uniform". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-07-10. His column will appear weekly in this space.
  15. ^ Kamp, David (2008-03-23). "Permalinks". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  16. ^ "Nonfiction Reviews". Publishers Weekly. 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2011-05-23. Benjamin Zimmer's 'Language Log' reads like a wonderfully expansive and more self-aware William Safire column.
  17. ^ "Introduction" (PDF). Far from the Madding Gerund. William, James. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  18. ^ "Table of Contents, Far from the Madding Gerund". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  19. ^ "Articles by Ben Zimmer". Slate. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  20. ^ Zimmer, Ben (2011-07-29). "The Jargon of the Novel, Computed". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  21. ^ Zimmer, Ben (2011-10-29). "Twitterology: A New Science?". The New York Times Sunday Review. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  22. ^ "Articles by Ben Zimmer". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  23. ^ "Media Queries". American Dialect Society. 15 January 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  24. ^ Marzorati, Gerald (2010-03-21). "On Language With Ben Zimmer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  25. ^ "WSJ's Ben Zimmer receives first LSA Linguistics Journalism Award". Linguistics Society of America. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  26. ^ LSA Public Lectures on Language Series
  27. ^ Kassel, Matthew (8 September 2015). "Zimmer Down, Boys".

External links

  • Official website, including biography and archive of writings
  • Contributor profile, Language Log
  • From A to Zimmer, OUPblog, Oxford University Press
  • Contributor profile, Visual Thesaurus
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