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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
Several signs, in fact. I took a quick trip across the state line, via the California Zephyr, to see the excellent “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” at the Nevada Museum of Art. (It’s the only museum in the Western US to host this touring show, which originated at the Brooklyn Museum.)... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Fritinancy
The science of predicting tropical storms and hurricanes has improved greatly in recent years, but it still isn’t exact. That’s why storm maps show not a straight-line path of a hurricane’s progress but a tadpole-shaped “cone of uncertainty.” The area inside the cone is the danger zone, and the size... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Fritinancy
The witty and skillful Helen Zaltzman, host of The Allusionist language podcast, recently invited me on the show to talk about “novelty spellings for foods-that-aren’t-made-out-of-the-things-they-sound-like-they’re-made-out-of”—like chik’n, cheez, and mylk. The episode is now live and free for the listening here. You’ll hear me at the beginning and the end of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2019 at Fritinancy
The first word I remember not recognizing, when I began reading on my own at about age 5, was mere. I no longer remember the title of the book, but I remember that the phrase that gave me pause was a mere mouse. I wasn’t yet in the habit of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2019 at Fritinancy
I was recently interviewed about food naming for The Allusionist, the language podcast conceived and hosted by Helen Zaltzman.* Helen wanted my take on plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods, an industry that’s seen a lot of growth lately, and also a fair amount of pushback from Big Carnivore. (See the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2019 at Fritinancy
Aristocracy, as you know, is government by the “best” or the “noblest” citizens. Kakistocracy is the opposite: government by the worst (or, more literally, the shittiest). Idiocracy was invented by director Mike Judge to serve as the title and theme of his 2006 dystopian comedy, set in the year 2505,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2019 at Fritinancy
The Ohio State University definitely wants you to associate it with the definite article: The institution has applied for trademark protection for THE for use on shirts and hats. (h/t Alex Johnson) Don’t look so surprised, says trademark lawyer Ed Timberlake. In case anybody's curious: THE is already a registered... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2019 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at content, a ubiquitous word with a long history and some specific contemporary senses. Full access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt: What are you reading right here, right now? A sentence? A paragraph? An article? Yes, yes, and yes, but... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2019 at Fritinancy
It’s a book! It’s a movie! It’s a brewery! (Two breweries, actually.) It’s an impending economic catastrophe, or maybe two catastrophes! I spotted the economic-disaster farmageddon, a portmanteau of farm and Armageddon, in a tweet-reply to short-term Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci. What gain? He's s failure by virtually all standards.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2019 at Fritinancy
The news that Tiny Pretty Things, the 2016 YA novel about ballet students by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, is being made into a 10-episode Netflix series sent me into a free-association reverie. “Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars.” – Amazon. The sequel (2017) is titled Shiny Broken Pieces. I... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2019 at Fritinancy
Gilroy. El Paso. Dayton. In these three American cities, at least 32 children and adults were killed by three shooters in a single week, 23 of them within just 13 hours over the weekend of August 3 and 4. While attending a garlic festival. While shopping at Walmart. While socializing... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2019 at Fritinancy
On July 27, the 45th president of the United States took to Twitter, as he does, to attack Elijah Cummings, who has represented Maryland’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996. The president called Rep. Cummings’s Baltimore district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” He... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2019 at Fritinancy
“Companies change their slogans and catchphrases all the time to keep themselves fresh in customers’ minds. But DiGiorno might be the only one that has kept the same catchphrase, but changed the implication.” (Eater) * “Sometimes I look at license plates for new prefix ideas. Sometimes I borrow from the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2019 at Fritinancy
How many people do you need to form a “squad”? If you’re playing in the Cricket World Cup, 15 (11 of whom will be on the field at any time). If you’re the World Cup champion U.S. women’s national soccer team, 23 in all. If you’re members of the U.S.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2019 at Fritinancy
My July column for the Visual Thesaurus is a review of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, by Gretchen McCullough, resident linguist at Wired (among her many other distinctions). If you’ve ever wondered how a period (full stop) can be passive-aggressive, or how LOL evolved into lol, or... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2019 at Fritinancy
So many candidates! Twenty-five at last count, although by the time I click “publish,” six or seven of them may have thrown in the towel. (Rep. Eric Swalwell, who took part in the first round of televised debates, in June, dropped out earlier this week. His slogan was “Go Big.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2019 at Fritinancy
“If you believe, wherever you are, clap your hands, and she’ll hear you. Clap! Clap! Don’t let Tink die! Clap!” If you’ve seen any version of Peter Pan, or read the original J.M. Barrie book, you know that this exhortation yields a happy ending. Fervent belief, accompanied by vigorous clapping,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2019 at Fritinancy
Here in the U.S. we’re headed into a long holiday weekend—a friend of mine calls it Interdependence Day, which I like a lot. If your dog hates fireworks and you’re not thrilled with the tinpot-dictator-y look of tanks at the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps you’ll enjoy spending some of your leisure... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2019 at Fritinancy
“Buenas noches,” said Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “Cada voz debemos escuchar,” said Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman. “La situación ahora es inaceptable,” said Cory Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey. “Me llamo Julián Castro, y estoy postulando por presidente de los Estados Unidos,” said... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2019 at Fritinancy
It’s been almost five years since I wrote about a branding trend I’d noticed: names that began with Ever. There were the classics: Eveready batteries, Everlast sporting goods, Everclear knockout alcohol. There were the new Evers on the block: Everlane for fashion, Evercharge for EV charging (get it?), Everplans for... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2019 at Fritinancy
Can a woman be a fellow? That was what puzzled several people who responded to a tweet last week from U.S. Representative Katie Porter, D-California. Hi Katie...I’m a fan but just curious...why assumed wounded vet would be a fellow? — Tasha R Wiehe (@TashaWiehe) June 21, 2019 Fellow OR female...... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2019 at Fritinancy
Happy solstice, and a few self-serving announcements: 1. You can now follow me on Instagram, where I post an average of one image a day—never a selfie, and never a “Story,” an Instagram feature I find annoying. 2. Over on Medium, I published “The Sound of a Name,” about the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2019 at Fritinancy
In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, I take a deep dive into deep, a word with a surprisingly tenacious hold on our shallow 21st-century minds. Deepfake, deep state, deep learning, Deep Throat: whether we want to convey complexity or mystery, we turn to a word with deep roots... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2019 at Fritinancy
Just for my own amusement, I keep a list of job titles that didn’t exist until relatively recently. Most of them are in technology fields: Customer success manager. Code sensei. Scooter juicer. Operations Jedi. One recently created job, however, depends not on technology but on psychology and stagecraft. Intimacy directors—the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2019 at Fritinancy
I’m stepping away from my desk until the middle of next week, so I’ll leave you with links to some of my recent (and in the case of the Visual Thesaurus, not-so-recent but finally un-paywalled) writing. For Strong Language: “Sluts,” a deep-ish dive into the history of a wanton word... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2019 at Fritinancy