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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
Turn up your speakers or pop in your earbuds and listen to the latest episode of The Allusionist, a fine podcast about words and language, in which host Helen Zaltzman interviews me about – what else? – names and the naming process. Stay tuned to the end to hear Helen... Continue reading
Posted 8 hours ago at Fritinancy
Henge: A type of Neolithic earthwork featuring a circular banked enclosure with an internal ditch. The most famous henge is Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England; it is estimated to have been built between 3000 and 2000 BCE. The -henge element “may have meant something ‘hanging’ or supported in the air,” according... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Fritinancy
I’m over at the Strong Language blog today with a story about a Hollywood recording studio that recorded some of the biggest names of the 1960s and 1970s: the Doors, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Linda Ronstadt. The studio’s own name was the acronym T.T.G., which may have stood for “Two... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Fritinancy
Some recently encountered names that made me wonder: What were they thinking? If you saw the name GLIXEL out of context, wouldn’t you assume it was a drug? Or a device for, say, glucose monitoring? I sure did. But no. According to a May 22 story in the New York... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Fritinancy
Canvass: To conduct a public-opinion survey; to solicit votes or opinions; to scrutinize; to debate or discuss. In this U.S. election season – and in the Philippines’, I’ve discovered – canvass makes frequent appearances in media reports. From the spelling, you’d infer that it’s related to canvas, the sturdy woven... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2016 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Unpacking ‘Hack’,” looks at the the myriad meanings of hack, from “crude chop” to “cough” to “cab” to “computer break-in.” I explore the word’s dual etymology and spend some time on current usages such as life hack and hackathon. Full access is restricted... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2016 at Fritinancy
Why is the German word for house suddenly trending among hipsteresque businesses? I’m still puzzling over that question after having spotted this trifecta over two days in Los Angeles: Pour Haus, a wine bar in the Arts District, deep downtown (1820 Industrial Street). You could conceivably pronounce the name poorhouse,... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2016 at Fritinancy
Asperitas: A cloud formation “made up of well-defined, wavelike structures in the underside of the cloud, more chaotic and with less horizontal organization than undulatus. It is characterised by localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2016 at Fritinancy
The official Trump typeface – as seen on hotels, airplanes, and campaign logo (but not on the failed steaks, wine, or university) – is Akzidenz Grotesk. * Budweiser has announced that it’s rebranding its beer “America” for the duration of the U.S. election season. It’s not the first America-first stunt... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Fritinancy
Poplin: A strong, lightweight, plain-woven fabric with a smooth finish, historically silk but now more commonly cotton. Poplin weave structure, via Charles Tyrwhitt. “Poplin pieces,” from a ShopBop email whose subject line read “Spring’s must-have fabric.” For more on “must-have” and other fashion buzzwords, see my Visual Thesaurus column, “Decoding... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2016 at Fritinancy
You’ve heard, perhaps, of the Curate’s Egg? Right Reverend Host: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad Egg, Mr. Jones!” The Curate: “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!” Yesterday, at Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, aka Best Grocery Store in the World, I spotted Curate’s Nacks …... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2016 at Fritinancy
Flattie: A film shot conventionally, in two or three dimensions, rather than in 360-degree virtual-reality (VR) format. Flattie has been around for at least two decades, but I first encountered it last week in a story in the April 25 New Yorker by Andrew Marantz about “the pioneers who are... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2016 at Fritinancy
I usually can come up with a theory to explain copycat names and naming trends. In the early aughts, many companies chose double-O names (Qoop, Squidoo, Doostang, ooVoo) to sound like Google. All those X + Y names (Mizzen + Main, Standard & Strange, Coral & Tusk)? They evoke Ye... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2016 at Fritinancy
Glyph: A nonverbal symbol such as an arrow; a carved groove on a column or frieze; any computer-generated character. From Greek gluphe, a carving; imported into English around 1727 from French glyphe. Glyph was in the news last week following the death of Prince, the musician who in 1993 changed... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at Fritinancy
What’s so special about “Gateway”? Not much, at first appraisal. The word appears in more than 600 trademarks, including that of a pioneering U.S. computer company founded in 1985 in Sioux City, Iowa. (That company, whose original name was Gateway 2000, used a Holstein cow as its mascot; it was... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at Fritinancy
Common-sense gun laws. Common-sense conservatism. Common Sense Nation. “The courtroom of common sense.” Politics and the media have been awash in common sense lately, so I decided to investigate. My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Common Sense and Sensibility,” takes a close look at this commonplace expression and its... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2016 at Fritinancy
Motto: A brief statement that expresses a goal, ideal, or principle. From the Italian motto, “a saying or legend attached to a heraldic design,” and ultimately from Latin muttum (“grunt” or “word”). Related to French mot (“word”) and English mutter (“to mumble”). I’ve written so much and for so long... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2016 at Fritinancy
Good news for liberal-arts majors: “Behind Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not just software engineers. Increasingly, there are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types charged with engineering the personalities for a fast-growing crop of artificial intelligence tools.” (“The Next Hot Job in Silicon Valley Is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2016 at Fritinancy
Two huge companies on opposite sides of the globe. Two ad campaigns with ginormous budgets. Two teams of copywriters burning the midnight oil, pushing themselves to be original and authentic and cutting edge. And powerful, too. Let’s not forget powerful. Let’s see what they came up with. From AT&T –... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2016 at Fritinancy
VORP: An acronym for “value over replacement player.” Coined by baseball statistician Keith Woolner circa 2001 as a way to measure “how much a hitter contributes offensively or how much a pitcher contributes to his team in comparison to a fictitious ‘replacement player,’ who is an average fielder at his... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Fritinancy
I’ve been noticing a mini-trend in corporate naming: personal names. The names are usually (but not always) female, and they’re often a little old-fashioned. At their best, they add emotional appeal, humanize a company – especially a technology company whose actual workings may be opaque – and make a brand... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2016 at Fritinancy
Sad: Showing, expressing, or causing sorrow or gloom; depressing; inadequate. Sad is neither new nor obscure: it’s been with us since Old English, and even young children understand at least one of its meanings. But it’s been in the foreground in recent months thanks to a series of tweets published... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at Fritinancy
A few years ago I wrote a guest post for the trademark-and-branding blog Duets Blog that, if I say so myself, seems as fresh and relevant today – especially today – as it did then. I’ve updated it a bit and am publishing it here as a public service. **... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2016 at Fritinancy
I have a pair of related posts up on Strong Language (a sweary blog about swearing) that may be of interest to some of you. In them, I take a deep dive into a word whose offensiveness is variable and subjective: uttered by a presidential candidate, it caused consternation among... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2016 at Fritinancy
Breakfastarian: “A person who recognizes the superiority of breakfast over other meals. A person who eats only breakfast foods” (Urban Dictionary, July 20, 2013). A blend of breakfast with the Latinate suffix -arian, denoting “association with a place or thing or idea.” Compare vegetarian, fruitarian, and breatharian (and contrast omnivore,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at Fritinancy