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Nancy Friedman
Oakland, California
Fritinancy: a chirping or creaking, as of a cricket (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913 edition); formerly known as Away With Words.
Interests: follow me on twitter:, get instant name advice at
Recent Activity
The names of some of the world’s most successful brands – from Accenture to Zantac – were widely ridiculed when they were first announced. In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Why Do We Hate New Names?”, I look at the causes of name aversion and the reason we... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Fritinancy
It’s rare that a nonce word – a word invented for a single situation, also called an occasionalism – takes root in the language and continues to thrive centuries after its original use. But that’s the case with defenestration, which was created from Latin roots meaning “out the window” and... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Fritinancy
Recreational cannabis has been sold legally in Oregon since October 1, 2015; since January 1, 2017, dispensaries have been required to apply for and receive licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. In early January, the Portland Business Journal reported* that the OLCC had received 1,907 recreational marijuana license applications... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2017 at Fritinancy
Jennifer R. Bernstein wasn’t the only one stumped by this sentence, lifted from an article by Michael Hafford in Playboy whose headline reads “F—k Your Chella Bod. I Love Mine As Is and I’m Still Going to Coachella.” what do words even mean anymore — Jennifer R Bernstein (@jenniferrenu)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last week Taser International, maker of stun guns, body cameras, and technology for transmitting law-enforcement data, announced that it was changing its corporate name to Axon, the name of its body-cameras. As part of the rebranding, the company is offering a free body camera to every police officer in the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2017 at Fritinancy
“I see that the word ‘duffer’ is defined as ‘a person inexperienced at something, especially at playing golf,’” illustrator Barry Blitt told Françoise Mouly, the art editor at The New Yorker, about his cover for the magazine’s April 10 issue. “That’s the word that comes to mind as I watch... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2017 at Fritinancy
“Broadly speaking,” Winston Churchill may or may not have said*, “short words are best, and old words when short are the best of all.” With Oath, the name of the new division that will house AOL and Yahoo’s media and business-to-business properties after those two companies merge, parent company Verizon... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2017 at Fritinancy
When your livelihood involves plying words rather than, say, grinding coffee beans or uploading cat photographs or welding slabs of sheet metal, your success or failure depends on skill and knowledge, to be sure. It also depends on a sixth sense that, even though the words in question may be... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last week five Democratic congressmen introduced a bill that would require the Trump administration to release the visitor logs at the White House or wherever else the president holds court – including Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned private Florida club that the president likes to call the “Southern White House” and which... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at Fritinancy
On Monday, the Current Occupant announced a new executive department: the White House Office of American Innovation, to be headed by his 36-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Like #45, young Master Kushner has never served in government or the military or worked for anyone other than his father – as a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2017 at Fritinancy
On March 24, Republican Congressional leaders withdrew the American Health Care Act – H.R. 1628, also known as AHCA, TrumpCare, RepubliCare, and RyanCare (after the House Speaker) – a mere 16 days after it was introduced in committee. The bill had been slapped together as a fulfillment of the “repeal... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2017 at Fritinancy
I’m generally skeptical of corporate-storytelling advice, but Andy Raskin’s “How to Design Your Company Story” is just wacky enough – its hypothetical company is called – to win me over. * An illustrated guide to Republican metaphors for the Affordable Care Act, from goat to puzzle to house of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2017 at Fritinancy
When we last met, I shared a few paragraphs about “The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” Ten days later, I find I can’t stop thinking about greatness. Or, more specifically, about great, the adjective. To scratch my itch, I scrolled through 1,000 years of great etymology and compounds, from... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2017 at Fritinancy
Federal-level idiocy was on full, florid display this week. On Sunday, the current occupant of the White House and Mar-a-Lago took to Twitter to share his innermost thoughts, and got so carried away he misspelled the word principles. It’s probably not a word he’s had much occasion to use. On... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at Fritinancy
Like last week’s word, stooge, bamboozle – to fool or cheat someone – is not quite what it appears to be. It has nothing to do with booze, whose origin is a Middle Dutch word meaning “to drink a lot.” Nor is it one of those flavorful 19th-century American slang... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2017 at Fritinancy
Yesterday was the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991), best known as Dr. Seuss, author of beloved and best-selling children’s books such as The Cat in the Hat and The Lorax. Coincidentally, I’m sure, it was also the day my local public radio station, KQED, aired a story by Sam... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2017 at Fritinancy
Before last week, if you’d asked me to guess the history and derivation of stooge, I’d have ventured that it was a bit of thieves’ cant like fake or phony, probably from the golden age of such words: 18th-century London. And I’d have been dead wrong. The Stooge (1952). From... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last Friday the Washington Post quietly unveiled its new motto on Snapchat. Yesterday the new motto appeared in the paper’s online edition. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” – that is, absent the shining light of the press. “This is actually something we’ve said internally for a long time in speaking about... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2017 at Fritinancy
In 1879, a telegraphic code book proposed SCOTUS as shorthand for “Supreme Court of the United States.” Ammon Shea, writing for the Merriam-Webster blog, traced the next -OTUS coinage to the 1890s, when telegraph operators began using POTUS to abbreviate “President of the United States.” Both acronyms became widespread, joined... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2017 at Fritinancy
Why do so many robot names sound alike? FastCoDesign put the question to name developer Christopher Johnson, who explained that Kuri, Yui, Yobi, et al. “sound like the kind of names you might give your dog.” * Speaking of machines and names, Amazon’s Alexa is making life miserable for a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last week, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to reinstate the Trump Administration’s ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, I began seeing references to a new-to-me legal blog with an interesting name: Lawfare. LAWFARE: "Remarkably, in the entire opinion, the panel did not bother... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2017 at Fritinancy
My new column for the Visual Thesaurus asks: What’s the difference between crisp and crispy? And what do 15th-century language fads, breakfast cereals, and Martha Stewart have to do with the question? Full access is limited to subscribers, but of course you already knew that (and have already subscribed). Here’s... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2017 at Fritinancy
This headline popped up today on the home page of Uniqlo, the ubiquitous Japanese retail chain. It links to the site’s jeans section, where the clothing is replete with rips, holes, and other “tasteful rough touches.” Normally I’d focus on the verbing of imperfect – an example of anthimeria I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2017 at Fritinancy
In the 1950s, English translations of a statement by Martin Niemöller – a German Lutheran pastor who had at first supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power but was later imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime, and spent the last years of World War II in a concentration camp – began... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2017 at Fritinancy
Certain adjectives fit certain public figures so perfectly that they become Homeric epithets. The Anglo-Saxon king Æthelred (966–1016) is known to us commoners as The Unready, a mistranslation of an Old English word meaning “ill advised.” President Obama was frequently tagged with aloof – disregarding his deeply empathetic side, beautifully... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at Fritinancy