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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
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 2 days ago 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 5 days ago 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
On January 22, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and defended a (provably false) statement by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, about the size of the crowd at his boss’s swearing-in ceremony. Spicer wasn’t telling lies, Conway insisted; he was presenting “alternative facts.” The... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at Fritinancy
I’ve been tracking smart in product and company branding for a couple of years (see this blog post and this Visual Thesaurus column), but I’ve still been amazed and amused by a recent cascade of smart brands – a smartnado, if you will. Many of the newer smart brands don’t... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at Fritinancy
On Friday President Trump signed an executive order – written by one or both of his strategists named Steve – that restricts immigration from seven majority Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and excludes all Syrian refugees indefinitely. (Not included in the list of restricted countries: Turkey,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last November the film director and winemaker Francis Ford Coppola opened a new restaurant in Geyserville (Sonoma County). It has an unusual menu for a California Wine Country restaurant, or indeed any California restaurant: fry bread tacos, venison chili, rotisserie prairie chicken, pine ice cream. It’s located inside a winery... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2017 at Fritinancy
On January 20, Inauguration Day, white nationalist Richard Spencer was knocked to the ground in Washington, D.C., by a masked protester. He filed a police report the following day, and posted multiple tweets about the incident, including this one: If law enforcement can't protect us from antifa assaults we will... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2017 at Fritinancy
What was Kellogg’s Product 19, and how did it get that slightly sinister name? (Slate) * The copy for this 1919 ad for Prince Albert tobacco – “the national joy smoke” – is sure to put pep in your smokemotor, all right! And the illustration’s a pip, too. (Language Log)... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2017 at Fritinancy
Last week Buzzfeed published a collection of memos, prepared in 2015 by a former British intelligence agent, that make “explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been ‘cultivating, supporting and assisting’ President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him.” The “compromising information” included... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2017 at Fritinancy
It’s the end of an era for Yahoo – again. If the deal goes through, Yahoo, the pioneer internet portal founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994, will be selling its core internet assets to Verizon for $4.8 billion. On Monday it was announced that what’s left –... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2017 at Fritinancy
At its annual meeting, held this year in Austin, the American Dialect Society selected a two-word lexical item as its word of the year for 2016: dumpster fire. And it set a precedent by including an emoji representation of the term in its announcement of the vote. Yes, that’s a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2017 at Fritinancy
Earlier this week, Washington-area news media reported that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, daughter and son-in-law of the president-elect, would be moving into a six-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bathroom house in the District of Columbia. The house, which sold on December 22 for $5.5 million, $400,000 under the listing price, is less than... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at Fritinancy
In debate strategy, there are assertions, counter-assertions, framing, reframing, rebuttals, and undermining. Then there’s the Gish Gallop, also known as “proof by verbosity,” “baffle them with bullshit,” or, latterly, the “Trump Tirade. “ This fallacious tactic seeks to drown an opponent “in a flood of individually weak arguments.” (In the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2017 at Fritinancy