Zeens and Mags
In his November 10, 1996 "On Language"
column in the New York Times Magazine, William Safire wrote:
who call parents 'rents call magazines zeens (sometimes spelled
zines, but that triggers mispronunciation). Those of us in the
media world call them mags, but now we stand in danger of confusion.
" 'When the
Secret Service told me that 30,000 people had gone through the
mags,' President Clinton told a rain-soaked crowd, 'I knew you
wanted to keep America on the right track.'
"The New York
Times reporter on the scene, Alison Mitchell, explained to readers
that mags were metal detectors.
" 'To me,
mags are magazines,' writes Richard Weiner, who has revised the
Webster's New World Dictionary of Media and Communications, 'but
in the President's case, the reference is to magnetometers.'
required a shortening of metal detector, because five syllables
will never do. Somebody must have tried M.D.'s, which would be
confused with doctors, and "Mets," which would have
recalled New York ballplayers; neither made the slangification
cut. At that point, metal-detector technicians came forward with
their word for the shortening, mags, which could only be confused
with Maggs Brothers, a bibliophile's paradise on Berkeley Square
in London. The Secret Service picked it up, and the clip was
adopted by the President of the United States.
say mag-NET-om-et-ers; many more prefer mag-na-TAH-ma-ters, but
we don't need to bother our heads about that whole word, coined
in 1827; it's now reissued as mags, setting off a loud alarm
as you try to pass through with loose change in your pocket.
News junkies will now have to join the teens in reading the zeens."
From "On Language,
" December 8, 1996:
"After a recent
usage diktat in this space that the clip of magazine should be
spelled the way it sounds, 'zeen,' and not 'zine,' as it sounds
in Auld Lang, Constance Hale of a monthly named Wired sent me
her Wired Style: Principles
of English Usage in the Digital Age. The folks at Wired prefer
zine, defined as 'a small, cheap, self-published work; an underground,
anarchistic version of a magazine.' From that flows fanzine,
a magazine for fans of Bill Gates, as well as E-zine, an electronic
fanzine, and Webzine, 'a Web site that publishes original content.'
I may be a global village idiot, but on the theory that written
form should follow pronunciation function, I still prefer zeen."
From a reply by
Josh Glenn, editor of the zine Hermenaut:
writes that 'Teen-agers who call parents rents call magazines
zeens (sometimes spelled zines, but that triggers mispronunciation).
Those of us in the media world call them mags.'
indeed be acceptable slang for magazines, but zines (never, ever
spelled zeens or pronounced so as to rhyme with lines, mines.
pines, or Heinz) are not magazines. Zines are independently produced
publications driven by the editorial passions and obsessions
of their creatorsas opposed to magazines, which are too
often driven by the need to sell ads to a certain imagined demographic
zine seems to be a shortened form of the word fanzine, which
has for several decades referred to a low-budget publication
by and for the fans of a particular actor, genre of literature,
rock and roll band, or what have you.
words, the word zine has always been a subversive dig at the
very idea of a magazine, and to announce in your influential
column that the former is merely a slang word for the latter
is both incorrect and inconsiderate. Please publish a correction."
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