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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
“One well-chosen verb” gave Doug Jones, the victorious Democrat in last week’s contest for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, the rhetorical advantage over his opponent “Judge” Roy Moore*, writes David Litt in The Daily Beast. At a campaign event a week before the election, Jones reminded voters of the... Continue reading
Posted 9 hours ago at Fritinancy
With December half gone, we’re already deep into Word of the Year season. has chosen “complicit”; Merriam-Webster chose “feminism”; Collins Dictionary offered “fake news.” Oxford University Press selected “Trump” as its Children’s Word of the Year for 2017, while Oxford Dictionaries picked youthquake, which last was popular in the... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Fritinancy
Dear copywriters, editors, and reporters: Do you really think you’re being clever with your “’Tis the season” line? Trust us: you are not. I refer you to that wise man John McIntyre, of the Baltimore Sun, reminding us to beware holiday clichés: “’Tis the season”: Not in copy, not in... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Fritinancy
It’s my yearly roundup of brand names that made headlines and were linguistically interesting, including a few I’ve written about here: Velar, Keurig, Oath. Access is restricted to subscribers for three months (give yourself a gift!); here’s an excerpt. Bonobos. Founded in 2007 as an e-commerce site, the menswear company... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Fritinancy
Pretty much everywhere you look, things are bad. Sexual predators in Hollywood, Washington, Alabama, and between and beyond. Wildfires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties – in December! (As someone observed on Twitter this week, there’s no such thing as “fire season” any more.) The rapacious tax bill. The shrinking... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2017 at Fritinancy
In the digital world, ownership – or ownage, is it’s often called – is an intangible quality. The tech-jargon sense of to own originated among hackers in the 1990s, who used it to mean “taking control of someone else’s computer”; it was picked up by gamers, for whom it means... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2017 at Fritinancy
Image’s word of the year for 2017 is complicit. The selection is based on the number of online lookups, which spiked in March, when SNL featured a perfume ad parody; and in April, when Ivanka Trump said she didn’t know “what it means to be complicit.” Collins Dictionary, based in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at Fritinancy
If you’re just a tiny bit aware of blockchain, it’s probably thanks to Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer virtual currency introduced in January 2009 and rising sensationally, if erratically, in value ever since. (On November 25 a single bitcoin was worth US$8,770.) Bitcoin was made possible through blockchain technology, which, put as... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2017 at Fritinancy
I ducked into Mrs. Dalloway’s, a Berkeley bookstore, to pick up a gift. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Three books with wonder in their titles, all published in the last 12 months. Wonder Valley, by Ivy Pochoda, “a visionary portrait of contemporary Los Angeles in all its... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2017 at Fritinancy
All this autumn, the stories have been tumbling out: about sexual harassment, sexual “misconduct” and, in some cases, actual rape, perpetrated by men in positions of power. Men in Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey), men in the media (Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Michael Oreskes), men in tech (Uber,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2017 at Fritinancy
Over the weekend, a strange Twitter trend began surfacing: People – well, white men – were posting videos of themselves destroying coffeemakers. And not just any coffeemakers: Keurig single-cup coffeemakers. There’s a whole lot of backstory to this weird cultural moment; if you’re not already familiar with the connection between... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2017 at Fritinancy
“Donald Trump is reinventing the kowtow for the Twitter age,” wrote David Rothkopf in a Los Angeles Times op-ed published November 3, just before Trump left for a 12-day, five-country Asia trip. Rothkopf cited Trump’s “fawning tweets” celebrating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “extraordinary elevation” at the 19th Chinese Community Party... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2017 at Fritinancy
You start a company to sell protective eyewear for computer users. What to name the business? Something to do with the quality of sight? Or screens? Or protection? Nope. Now, I won’t deny that Phonetic Computer Eyewear is a distinctive name in its field, but only because it’s so utterly... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2017 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Laughing Matters,” looks at the spread of ludicrous, ridiculous, and absurd (and their adverbial counterparts) as positive intensifiers. Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt. On the language-of-humor scale, where funny, droll, and amusing are positive or neutral,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at Fritinancy
In U.S. and Canadian law, there’s a long-established* practice of using “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” to refer to a person whose name is unknown or must be withheld. Placeholder names like these are called kadigans, and it turns out there are legal kadigans for parcels of real property as... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2017 at Fritinancy
I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline last week when I noticed a word that rang a dim bell: verbate. This. Entire. Verbate.... It's what @realDonaldTrump said to children of members of the press — Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) October 27, 2017 I grasped that it had the sense... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2017 at Fritinancy
With the return to Standard Time on Saturday night – not a moment too soon, in my opinion – it’s pleasant and fitting to consider the lovely word vespertine, an adjective meaning “of the evening.” The root is Latin vesper, which means “evening star” (it’s related to Greek Hesperus, the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2017 at Fritinancy
Fictional African countries are in the news these days thanks to the U.S. commander-in-chief’s name-checking “Nambia” and anticipation building for the Black Panther movie. (Marvel Comics fans will recall that the Black Panther hails from the land of Wakanda.) Naturally, there’s a Wikipedia entry on fictional African countries – updated... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2017 at Fritinancy
You’ll find the story behind this week’s word, blue falcon, over at Strong Language, the sweary blog about swearing. What does blue falcon have to do with swearing? A couple of hints: It’s a bit of coded military jargon that became a Twitter hashtag after an emotional speech delivered by... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2017 at Fritinancy
During my recent trip to Vancouver I attended five screenings at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). The films were good – I especially enjoyed Lucky, the actor Harry Dean Stanton’s last movie (he died in September); and You’re Soaking in It, a disturbing Canadian-produced documentary about data-driven advertising –... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at Fritinancy
The word may be unfamiliar to you – it was to me, until a few weeks ago – but you undoubtedly know a jabroni or two. We all do. He – it’s always a he – isn’t mean enough to be called a jerk. He’s annoying, but not as obnoxious... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2017 at Fritinancy
Suppose you built a condominium building in a certain Manhattan neighborhood and named it for an adjacent but different Manhattan neighborhood. Suppose the zoning laws wouldn’t allow a residential tower on the site, so what you actually were selling were rooms in a “condo-hotel.” Suppose you publicly claimed that 60... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last week I took the Coast Starlight to Seattle, a city I hadn’t visited in decades, and Vancouver, BC, where I’d never been at all. The journey was leisurely and scenic, the weather was mild and dry, and the political climate shift after I crossed the border was startling in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Fritinancy
“What linguists sometimes call ‘genericisation’ of brand names has a grimmer name among marketing types: “genericide”. The Economist’s Johnson on google, photoshop, xerox, and other examples of brand genericization. A trademark-defense ad from Xerox, 2011. Yes, “zipper” used to be a trademark-protected brand name. Source. * Related: The lawyers at... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at Fritinancy
In my newest column for the Visual Thesaurus, I take a look at backronyms, defined in an Oxford Dictionaries blog post as “an acronym deliberately created to suit a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name, or as a fanciful explanation of a word’s origin.” Backronyms are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2017 at Fritinancy