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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
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 6 hours ago 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 6 days ago 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 7 days ago 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
It was not the best of times, world-events-wise, but books provided solace, insight, and – occasionally – distraction. Here are some books I read (or listened to) this year, and can’t stop thinking about. On language and words The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2016 at Fritinancy
Cronyism comes from crony, a bit of 17th-century Cambridge student slang whose oldest meaning is “a close friend or companion of long standing.” Crony may have come from Greek chronios (long-lasting), which in turn comes from chronos (time). When cronyism came along, in the mid-19th century, it had the innocuous... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2016 at Fritinancy
Since 2009 I have observed Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us, celebrated on December 23 – by publishing misspellings, grammar flubs, and punctuation errors committed in the name of commerce. It’s all been lighthearted and lightly instructive: my way of honoring The Airing of Grievances, a mock-tradition... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2016 at Fritinancy
My marketing brain knows this promoted tweet from Fruit of the Loom is supposed to be festive and funny. But my civilian brain finds it baffling and a little icky. Undings are meant to be filled with underwear, no matter what style you plan on gifting. #NeverUndingFireplace — Fruit... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at Fritinancy
It’s my favorite portmanteau and the mot juste for the current season. Handy in other seasons, too. This is the tenth anniversary of my first tribute to anticipointment. I also wrote about it five years ago. Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2016 at Fritinancy
This post marks my eighth annual foray into word-of-the-year (WOTY) speculation. My first such summing-up, in 2009, included birther, Tea Party, and FAIL, among other lexical units. How things have changed. Or not. As in the past, my choices for 2016 follow the guidelines of the American Dialect Society, which... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2016 at Fritinancy
It’s fitting that elite emerged as one of the buzzwords of the 2016 presidential election, because elite is the French word for “selection” or “choice.” The word entered English in the late 14th century, when it signified “a chosen person,” especially a bishop-elect; it died out a few decades later... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2016 at Fritinancy
The American Name Society is accepting nominations for Names of the Year, with the winners to be announced at the society’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas, on January 5, 2017. Anyone can play; submit your nominations before January 3. Here are my own nominations in the categories established by ANS... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at Fritinancy
In the last two and a half years, Thumbtack, which matches customers with local service professionals, has raised $255 million in funding. If the company had spent the merest fraction of that sum on a professional copywriter with an elementary understanding of how advertising works, it could have come up... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2016 at Fritinancy
Join me at Strong Language today, where I’ve published a post about a phrase in a sign that appeared on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) last week. The sign was fake (but looked authentic); the phrase was an imperative that included a four-letter word that’s common in speech but uncommon... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2016 at Fritinancy
An aristocracy is government by the best people; the word was adopted into English in the 1560s from a French word coined from the Greek for “best” (aristos) and “rule” (kratos). A kakistocracy is the opposite: government by the worst or most unprincipled people. Given that the Greek word for... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2016 at Fritinancy
Why, ’tis the ’tis-the-season season! * ’Tis the season for new arrivals! Gap. ’Tis the season for a holiday position! Sephora (Emeryville, California) ’Tis the season for Dianne Reeves! Pandora (hat tip: Roger Julian). Tis’ (tsk, tsk) the season to give cheer! Wrong-way apostrophe from PayPal. ’Tis the season to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at Fritinancy
The English language gives us many ways to call something (or someone) false or untruthful. In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Unreality Check,” I explore many of those options, from fake, phony, and kayfabe (from underworld slang) to swindle (from German) and disinformation (originally Russian). Full access to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2016 at Fritinancy
I discovered hotep (or Hotep) serendipitously: I was looking for Afro-Cuban responses to the death of Fidel Castro, and a Twitter trail led me to @audaciouskay. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did learn a new word. And that's where some of the black vote for... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2016 at Fritinancy
In a week that saw post-truth anointed word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, the media – mainstream and social – were full of news about fake news. Facebook was put on the defensive for allowing “misinformation” about the U.S. presidential election to spread throughout its social network. Google announced... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2016 at Fritinancy
Warning: more politics than usual this month, although many of the links have have a language-y angle. * Post-truth is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016. The word, an adjective, means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at Fritinancy
Full disclosure up front: I’m a registered Democrat, and I voted for Hillary Clinton in the California primary and the general election. I contributed a modest amount of money to her campaign. I am in no way an expert in presidential politics, just a reasonably well-informed observer and participant in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2016 at Fritinancy
On November 8 a sub-majority of American voters elected as president a 70-year-old New Yorker who has never held public office or worked in government, never served in the armed forces, and never had a boss other than his father. (After his inauguration in January he will have 300 million... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2016 at Fritinancy
I didn’t think I’d have anything to say this morning – I got less than three hours’ sleep after watching the election returns – but then I saw the print edition of today’s New York Times, which came with a wraparound ad for the new Netflix series The Crown. The... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2016 at Fritinancy
Tomorrow is Election Day in the United States, the culmination of an unprecedentedly nerve-combusting season of political warfare. It’s been a campaign for which derangement – a mental disturbance; a disruption of the regular order – would seem to have been invented. It would even seem to merit the coining... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2016 at Fritinancy