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Zeens and Mags

In his November 10, 1996 "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, William Safire wrote:
"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, 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.'
"The language 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.
"Some people 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:
"Mr. Safire 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.'
"Mags may 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 creators—as opposed to magazines, which are too often driven by the need to sell ads to a certain imagined demographic group.
"The word 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.
"In other 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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