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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
You don’t need me to explain catch-22: It’s been part of our vocabulary for more than 60 years. A catch-22 is “a paradoxical situation from which an individual can’t escape because of contradictory rules or limitations.” Catch-22 comes from Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel of the same name, published in 1961... Continue reading
Posted 16 hours ago at Fritinancy
My latest post for Strong Language, the sweary blog about swearing, is about two sweary neologisms: enshittify and enshittification. Both were coined within the last year by journalist and author Cory Doctorow, who uses them to describe the current state of certain large internet platforms and e-commerce sites. Read more... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Fritinancy
Last week I was introduced to a new sense of the old word prompt, which comes from Latin promere (to bring forth) and has a long history in English, from its 15th-century beginnings as a verb (to urge, to incite to action) and modifier (immediate, without delay) to its extended... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Fritinancy
Do hobos still ride the rails in America? Indeed they do, and City of the Rails, a new podcast from journalist Danelle Morton, gives you a firsthand look at their lives. Danelle had a personal reason for her quest: Her daughter left home to hop freight trains as soon as... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2023 at Fritinancy
My latest story for Medium explores the potential and limitations of artificial-intelligence tools like ChatGPT to create names and taglines. I gave a few of these tools a spin; read the story to find out my verdict: Can you use ChatGPT to create brand names? If you hit a paywall,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2023 at Fritinancy
Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the Year of the Rabbit, so I’m digging deep into the archives to bring you a bunny-related* word I originally wrote about 15 years ago. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (1972) Crixa was an invention of the English author Richard Adams (1920–2016) for his 1972... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2023 at Fritinancy
For a couple of years I’ve been participating in a food-testing program in which I receive free, full-size “better-for-you” products in exchange for posting online reviews. Some of the products are hits: loved the Haven’s Kitchen sauces and the Cleveland Kitchen kosher dill pickles! (“Kitchen” shows up a lot in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2023 at Fritinancy
The other morning, as I was spreading Vegemite on my toast like scores* of my fellow Americans, I took a closer look at the label and made a happy discovery: This year marks the centennial (or centenary**) of Vegemite yeast extract, as much an Australian national symbol as koalas and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2023 at Fritinancy
My new story for Medium takes a deeper look at words of the year (WotYs): how, why, and by whom they’re chosen. I also investigate the peculiar institution known as Banished Words, a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek tradition, or PR stunt, at Lake Superior State University, in Michigan. Read Words of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2023 at Fritinancy
There are two kinds of people: those for whom the American Dialect Society’s selection of -ussy (and the related ussification) as the 2022 word of the year comes as gratifying vindication; and those who are saying WTF? or words to that effect. I admit it: When the vote came down—no... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2023 at Fritinancy
Something I hadn’t counted on when I plunged into blogging and then Twitter was how online connections could turn into real-life acquaintanceships—even friendships. By now, 16-plus years after I started blogging, I’ve met a number of internet pals: writers, name developers, linguists, and editors. When one of them accomplishes something... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2023 at Fritinancy
What, you were expecting something upbeat to kick off the new year? How little you know me. I lean by default toward the dark side. I don’t anticipate any just deserts to result from the January 6 Select Committee’s final report, damning though it may be. I’m not sanguine about... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2023 at Fritinancy
For my year-end wrap-up I’m letting my pictures do the talking. Pictures with words, that is. My thanks for the inspiration to Nancy Nall, whose blog I’ve enjoyed for many years. January Covid boosters became widely available (I got my first booster in September 2021 and my second in March... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2022 at Fritinancy
Happy Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us! I ... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2022 at Fritinancy
Because my words-of-the-year list couldn’t cover the whole territory, here’s a list of upper-case names that stood out over the past year. For a different take, see Namerology’s name-of-the-year post about Volodymyr, which includes a discussion of language, identity, and spelling. * Bellingcat. The open-source intelligence organization Bellingcat has done... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2022 at Fritinancy
Every December since 1999, the color mavens at Pantone have announced a color of the year for the upcoming twelve-month period. The Pantone color for 2023, revealed earlier this month, is Viva Magenta, a color that balances boldness with a feeling of fun. This dynamic mix exudes rebellion, but not... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2022 at Fritinancy
The story so far: Collins Dictionary chose permacrisis, Merriam-Webster ;picked gaslighting, The Economist selected hybrid work, and Oxford Languages—the home of the Oxford dictionaries—for the first time left the deciding up to vox populi, with a result that baffled many of us: goblin mode (“a type of behaviour which is... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2022 at Fritinancy
You’ve heard about the three-word method (or #threewordmethod), right? Well, maybe not, if you don’t follow fashion TikTok or fashion Instagram the way some people (ahem) do. Briefly: It’s a technique for clarifying your personal style and wardrobe needs that was popularized earlier this year by Allison Bornstein, a New... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2022 at Fritinancy
I succumbed to a Black Friday offer for Hulu subscriptions and have been gradually catching up on some shows I’d been curious about. One of those shows is “Reboot,” which premiered in September. It’s a scripted series with a terrific cast—Judy Greer, Rachel Bloom, Keegan-Michael Key, Paul Reiser, Johnny Knoxville—and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2022 at Fritinancy
Way back in 2006, in the early months of this blog, I wrote a sort of fan letter to a little Australian retail business called REMO that sold quirky, beautifully designed products I loved. Back then, I was celebrating what looked like REMO’s reinvention after a business collapse. What I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2022 at Fritinancy
Not this kind of grooming. Glamour Grooming for pets, Shawnee, Kansas Not this kind, either. National Men’s Grooming Day is August 19 And not these grooms, although they’re cute. “Custom gay wedding toppers.” No, this week we’re looking at yet another sense of grooming, one that’s been in headlines a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2022 at Fritinancy
Merriam-Webster chooses its words of the year based on the number of dictionary lookups. The 2022 winner, gaslighting, saw a 1740% increase, “with high interest throughout the year.” Runners-up include omicron, oligarch, and queen consort. Gaslight (1944): “Strange drama of a captive sweetheart!” And bear in mind Benjamin Dreyer’s sage... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2022 at Fritinancy
I’m late to trashion, a portmanteau of trash and fashion that has been cycling around for nearly two decades. It wasn’t until I read the November 11 “Open Thread” newsletter from Vanessa Friedman (no relation), chief fashion critic of the New York Times, that the word, and the phenomenon it... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2022 at Fritinancy
Yes, it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. on November 24. And it’s GivingTuesday—”a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity”—on November 29. But I haven’t accidentally dropped Thanks or Tuesday. I’m talking instead about “It’s giving [X],” a linguistic happening of its own. Listen, for example, to Chris Brown’s... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2022 at Fritinancy
What do we mean when we talk about “the future”? Next year? The next election cycle? The next generation? Or do we stretch our imaginations to conceive of “the next 10,000 years,” as Stewart Brand did when he created the Long Now Foundation in 1996? Brand’s foundation is dedicated to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2022 at Fritinancy