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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 don’t knit, but that hasn’t stopped me from lurking around the Etsy shop of a German merchant called DyeForYarn. The pun, though forced, is fitting. Just take a look at the macabre names bestowed on many of the colors. It’s Really Dead, Dead Walnut Wood, Black Hole, Gray Which... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2016 at Fritinancy
A blanket merchant in the Pacific Northwest is doing laudable work under a mournful moniker. The company commissions and sells handmade blankets in a variety of materials and designs. For every blanket you purchase, the company donates a blanket to your local homeless shelter. The name of the company: Sackcloth... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2016 at Fritinancy
What’s playing at the multiplex? I’ll tell you what’s playing at the multiplex: Bad Moms, coming to a large screen near you on July 29. That may have been what Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson was thinking of when he tweeted the other day: I'm glad we just put... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2016 at Fritinancy
Remember back in May, when Budweiser announced it was rebranding its beer “America” for the remainder of the U.S. election season? (You’ve probably noticed how much national harmony has broken out as a consequence.) Well, not to be outdone, a much smaller brewery in Minnesota has brought out its own... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2016 at Fritinancy
Miserabilism: A pessimistic philosophy; a consistently miserable outlook. From miserable combined with the philosophical suffix -ism. I recently heard miserabilism in an unexpected context: the annual awards lunch hosted by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. (I attended as the guest of a client.) Before we got to the awards, we... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2016 at Fritinancy
When I discovered that an odd number – in both senses – was being used an even number of times (two) as a company name, my curiosity was naturally piqued. The odd number in question is four hundred twenty-seven: 427. Does it signify anything to you? Me neither. Of course,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2016 at Fritinancy
Aeroese: The universal language of airline pilots and air-traffic controllers. Pronounced arrow-ease. Also (and more commonly) known as Aviation English. In an essay published last month in the online magazine Aeon, Mark Vanhoenacker – a licensed commercial pilot and the author of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot – writes... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2016 at Fritinancy
The Athenian School, a small, private, progressive institution for grades 6 through 12 in Danville, California, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Simultaneously, it launched a $12 million capital campaign comprising three major facility improvements. I was brought in to develop a themeline for the campaign, which will span the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at Fritinancy
My new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “There’s Something About ‘Thing’,” takes a look at the astonishing versatility and utility of thing, one of the oldest words in the English language. Thing dates back to at least the seventh century C.E., yet it’s as current as the oft-invoked Internet of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2016 at Fritinancy
Flyting: A ritual exchange of insults. According to a Wikipedia entry: The root is the Old English word flītan meaning quarrel (from Old Norse word flyta meaning provocation). Examples of flyting are found throughout Norse, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature involving both historical and mythological figures. The exchanges would become... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2016 at Fritinancy
In June 2006, George W. Bush was president of the United States, crowdsourcing was new to the lexicon, a lot of people still called blogs “weblogs,” YouTube was barely seven months old, and the iPhone was still a twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye. Also, I began writing this blog. Ten... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2016 at Fritinancy
Upskirt: “A video, usually taken in a crowded location such as a shopping mall, that is shot up a woman’s skirt” without the woman’s permission or even knowledge. (Source: Word Spy) In early May, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law criminalizing upskirting. reported: Noting concerns for protecting... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2016 at Fritinancy
The press release arrived in inboxes Thursday afternoon, and within minutes it seemed everyone in media or branding was scoffing at it. Tribune Publishing Co. (NYSE:TPUB) today announced that the Company will change its name to tronc, Inc., a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2016 at Fritinancy
Bulbul is a contemporary Danish watch brand with a name whose etymological tentacles extend into in at least three languages, none of them Scandinavian. Bulbul makes three minimalist styles of watch. The watches do only two things: tell time and look beautiful. Pebble watch via SFMOMA That asymmetrical face? Breathtaking.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Fritinancy
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 May 31, 2016 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 May 30, 2016 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 May 27, 2016 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 May 25, 2016 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