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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 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 yesterday 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 4 days ago 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
I don’t know what Konsus* means, or how or why its founders chose the name. But I can tell you this: If you’re a new company looking to grow by word of mouth, it is not advisable that the word sound like “cons us.” Related: The stars of HBO’s Silicon... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at Fritinancy
This outdoor ad is composed of simple English words, 10 of which have only one syllable. And yet it’s enigmatic nearly to the point of unintelligibility. “Now goes viral, then scrambles to scale. Next means everyone goes to the launch party.” And pop goes the weasel? I spotted the sign... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2016 at Fritinancy
Thyristor: A A four-layered semiconductor rectifier in which the flow of current between two electrodes is triggered by a signal at a third electrode. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries.) Coined in the 1950s from thyratron, a kind of thermionic tube (from Greek thura, “gate” or “door”) and transistor. Pronounced THIGH-wrist-er. For want... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2016 at Fritinancy
In an election season marked by one presidential candidate’s freewheeling use of naughty language, some observers have professed to be shocked, shocked that swearing is taking place in these hallowed halls. Well, readers of this blog and of my occasional posts at Strong Language are inured to shock: you know... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2016 at Fritinancy
Tuscan chicken, Tuscan toilets, Tuscan hummus: What exactly does Tuscan mean, anyway? (The New Yorker) * How do nouns become verbs? Why are we OK with buttering our bread or boycotting a business, but clench our teeth at impacting and efforting? (JStor Daily) More on how branding weirds language (by... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2016 at Fritinancy
Abilene paradox: A false consensus: a situation in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the wishes of many (or all) of the group members. Also called the Abilene effect, rule by committee, and social conformity. The Abilene paradox was named... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2016 at Fritinancy
There’s a curious little kerfuffle going on between two businesswomen whose flower-shaped logos are suspiciously similar in shape and embellishment. What makes it especially newsworthy is that one of the businesswomen is the actress Reese Witherspoon, and she’s the one being sued. But that’s not the only thing I find... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2016 at Fritinancy
Cache-coeur: A style of women’s blouse that crosses in front and secures at the waist or under the bust. From French (where it’s cache-cœur), meaning “hide the heart”; pronounced (roughly) cash-coor. Sometimes called surplice or simply wrap-front. Typical cache-coeur style, via Sempre Na Moda blog. I had never encountered this... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2016 at Fritinancy
I’m working with a client who wants to change his startup’s name, in part because the company’s focus has shifted. But he cited another, equally important reason for a name change: the current name isn’t inspiring. It lacks an emotional charge. My mission: to develop a set of names that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2016 at Fritinancy
It seems like only yesterday – it was, in fact, just over two months ago – that linguists and political pundits were parsing schlonged, a derivative of a Yiddish vulgarism for “penis” that had been emitted by presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump in his disparagement of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2016 at Fritinancy
Tsundoku: The constant act of buying books and nev... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2016 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at the many ways in which journey has become a dominant metaphor in English-speaking culture. Not this Journey. Nor this one (although I do discuss how “incredible journey” has become a cliché of reality TV). Nor these. But something more like this.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2016 at Fritinancy