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Benjamin Zimmer

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Benjamin Zimmer

Benjamin Zimmer (born 1971)[1] is an American linguist, lexicographer, and language commentator. He is the executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and, and is a language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. 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 graduated from Yale University in 1992 with a B.A. degree 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,[2] the Fulbright Program,[3] and the Social Science Research Council.[4] 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.[5] He was named editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press in 2006,[6] and the following year launched "From A to Zimmer," a weekly lexicography column on the OUP blog.[7]

In 2008, Zimmer was appointed executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, an interactive reference tool from Thinkmap, Inc.[8] He edits the online content of the Visual Thesaurus and its sister site, and writes a regular column on word origins entitled "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 the appointment of Zimmer as the new “On Language” columnist, succeeding Safire, the founding and regular columnist until his death in late 2009.[9] 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.[10] 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 entitled "Word on the Street."[11]

Zimmer's writing on language has appeared in two blog anthologies: Ultimate Blogs (Vintage, 2008, ISBN 978-0-307-27806-7)[12][13] and Far from the Madding Gerund (William, James, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59028-055-3).[14][15] He has also written for Slate,[16] The New York Times Book Review,[17] The New York Times Sunday Review,[18] and The Atlantic.[19]

Zimmer is the chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee and has served on the society's Executive Council.[20] He is also a member of the Dictionary Society of North America.[21]


Benjamin is the brother of science writer Carl Zimmer and the son of former New Jersey congressman Dick Zimmer.


External links

  • Official website, including biography and archive of writings
  • Contributor profile, Language Log
  • Oxford University Press
  • Contributor profile, Visual Thesaurus
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