Tunisia, Egypt,…NYT is next

Yes, I’m talking about Ben Zimmer’s On Language column in the New York Times–the column that was started by William Safire some 30 years ago, and continued by Language Log’s Ben Zimmer after Safire’s demise. And unlike Safire, Zimmer actually knows what he’s doing. So why is the NYT magazine’s new editor getting rid of it?

Language Log wrote about it here. The Economist wrote about it here. Enough writing, time for doing.

Go to Facebook’s “Keep ‘On Language’ in the New York Times” page and click “like”.

If you don’t have a Facebook account already, you probably have to create one in order to “like” this group. I did this years ago for some cause or another, and it was worth the aggravation. They did ask my age, and it’s none of their business. I usually tell people like that I’m sixteen, but if you tell internet entities you are a minor, they might want to restrict the content they show you, so I told them I was 80 or 90 something. For the rest of the questions, I tell them as little as possible. Who knows what they will do with the information. Facebook does not have a good track record with privacy issues.

You can also write to the editor, but let’s face it, if the guy dropped Zimmer, he’s obviously not the sharpest tack in the box. It would probably be better to get someone else’s attention. Here is his twitter thingy. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind if they retired Safire’s number–he had his own unique conservative political thing going anyhow–as long as we get Zimmer, but this editor guy doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing.

Bonus link: A lot of people can express ideas well if they have time to write them out and polish them, but how many people can think on their feet?  Here’s Zimmer on video (and what a fresh-faced young pup he is) with John McWhorter discussing the State of the Union address. As they used to say in the Whole Earth Catalog, cream rises.

UPDATE: Yes, write to the paper. The Facebook page now lists these email addresses:

NYT Magazine letters to the editor <magazine@nytimes.com>

NYT Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren <hugo.lindgren@nytimes.com>

NYT public editor Arthur Brisbane <public@nytimes.com>

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Zenga-zenga and other things Qaddafi

A Qaddafi potpourri:


Christiane Amanpour travels to Libya and interviews two of Qaddafi’s sons and Moammar Qaddafi.


The shoe-thrower’s index. Amusing view of unrest in the Arab world. The Economist.


Featured on the masthead of al-Jazeera’s online English page is an editorial titled, “Democracy is no panacea“, where we learn, ‘It [democracy]exacerbates cultural conflicts to the point of violence, because it provides a formal opportunity for the majority to force their will on the minority’”. Hahahaha. Could al-Jazeera’s Qatar overlords be getting nervous?

To what extent should a newspaper merely report events as opposed to trying to influence events? I remember when Al-Jazeera was kicked out of Jordan. They reported demonstrations at Jordan University in Amman, long a hotbed of seething Palestinian indignation. (Why was Jordan not using all its resources to wage war on Israel from within its borders? And when I applied for a job there, “we desperately need English teachers”, said one, but her boss said, ‘You’re American, that will never be accepted.”) Al-jazeera seemed to know exactly when and where the demonstrations were going to break out on campus, but they failed to report the buses with demonstrators arriving through the back gate.
During the recent uprising in Egypt, al-Jazeera was again kicked out. Were they again viewed as trying to create unrest rather than report it? And do they only do so only in countries that have treaties with Israel? (Israel has long accused them of slanted coverage favoring Hamas.)


Qaddafi’s Nescafe comment: if true, this would be a refreshing change from the koolaid meme. Qaddafi is supposed to have

claimed that young Libyans “fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs,” were fighting not for their freedom but for Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

I can’t hear it myself, but this is supposed to be the video. It was reported by the NYT.


Zenga-zenga.  A video made from Qaddafi’s speech goes viral. From the NYT:

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic.”…

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a song by the American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. Mr. Alooshe titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Colonel Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway….

Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.

But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”

Here’s the vocabulary from a YouTube comment:

shebr shebr = inch by inch

beit beit  = home by home

dar dar = house by house

zenga zenga = lane by lane

ila al-amam = to forward

thawra = revolution

maee el-malayeen = I have milions (ppl)

dakkat saat al amal = time for work

dakkat saat al zahaf = time for march

dakkat saat al intesaar = time for victory

la rojoo = no retreat


And here’s the Arabic, with some hahahaha’s thrown in at the end:

شبر شبر …..بيت بيت ….دار دار …زنقة زنقة …. فرد فرد

الى الامام الى الامام ..ثورة ثورة

معي الملايين و مش من الداخل .. معي الملاين من الامم الاخرى

انا اوجه نداء الى كل ملايين الصحراء

من الصحراء الى الصحراء حتزحف الملايين و ما حد يقدر يوقفها

دقت ساعة العمل .. دقت ساعة الزحف ..دقت ساعة الانتصار .. لا رجووووع

ههههههههههههههههههههههههههههه ه­هههههههههههههههههههههههههههه

One final matter of curiosity. Qaddafi keeps insisting he has no official position in Libya, he is a mere figurehead. This is also mentioned in the Khadafy biography I just finished reading. At various times Qaddafy has abdicated, but kept his membership in the ruling council, and at other times giving up his membership in the council as well, although it is agreed he always retained de facto power. So he can’t exactly step down, can he?

Posted in Arabs. 1 Comment »

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