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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: http://twitter.com/fritinancy, get instant name advice at http://clarity.fm/nancyfriedman
Recent Activity
“Survival is not recovery”—a phrase with roots in the language of sexual-abuse counseling—is turning out to have grim relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the World Health Organization reports that 80 percent of COVID infections are “mild or asymptomatic,” and most patients recover after one or two weeks, thousands of... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Fritinancy
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As if the pandemic hasn’t already tested all of us in countless ways, now even our entertainment comes in the form of a multiple-choice exam. Sometimes Always Never (2020), starring Bill Nighy as a Scrabble-playing tailor, debuted at the London Film Festival in 2018 and opened in virtual theaters in... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Fritinancy
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“I have rape-colored skin,” begins the powerful essay by Caroline Randall Williams, a poet, in the June 28 Sunday Review section of the New York Times. It’s headlined “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument.” Williams goes on to say: “I am a black, Southern woman,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2020 at Fritinancy
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This month’s book recommendation, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, by Kathryn Schulz, is ten years old and as timely as ever. I wrote last month about Schulz’s excellent pieces for the New Yorker, and I’m here to tell you that Being Wrong is every bit as well... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2020 at Fritinancy
My new column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at slogans for public-health campaigns. Their use (or misuse) has played an important in role during the COVID-19 pandemic (“Stay Home/Save Lives,” “We’re All in This Together,” “Six Feet Apart or Six Feet Under”), and, arguably, an event larger role in past... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2020 at Fritinancy
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I’m finally getting around to reading The Coddling of the American Mind, the 2018 book by Gregory Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt that details how, as the subtitle puts it, “good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure.” The book, which expands on a 2015 essay in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2020 at Fritinancy
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When Quaker Oats announced Wednesday that it would be changing the packaging and name of its 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand, my immediate response was: What took them so long? Original pancake mix with the most recent Aunt Jemima update, circa 1989. I’ve been unable to learn the name of the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Tom Cotton, the junior US senator from Arkansas, is an army veteran, but these days his preferred incendiary devices are words. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published an op-ed he wrote urging the Trump administration to “Send in the Troops” to put down the protests taking... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Over the last month I’ve looked at political ads from two recently formed advocacy organizations: the anti-Trump Republican group The Lincoln Project (“Mourning in America”) and the progressive group Meidas Touch (“Looters”). Today I’m turning the spotlight on a third organization, Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), which launched in May... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Since the shocking, videotaped killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white Minneapolis policeman on May 25, tens of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets in protest. In many places, demonstrations against police violence were met with callousness and more police violence, often military style.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2020 at Fritinancy
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There ought to be a word for “a familiar phenomenon you didn’t know had a name.” I’d been thinking about the concept for a few weeks, ever since two friends, on separate occasions, expressed puzzlement over the word paywall. Sure, they’d encountered subscriber-only websites or articles. But they hadn’t known... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Here’s one positive thing you can say about this nerve-blasting election cycle: It’s attracting fresh voices into political advertising. I’ve written about the Lincoln Project—a group of prominent anti-Trump Republicans—which has produced some striking outdoor and video ads. (See more here.) Today I’m focusing on an even newer effort: Meidas... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2020 at Fritinancy
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“When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That was the phrase in a tweet sent on May 28 from the @realDonaldTrump account—and retweeted by the official White House account—that caused Twitter to append a notice of rule violation: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2020 at Fritinancy
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This month’s book recommendation is The End of October, by Lawrence Wright, the New Yorker staff writer best known for his deeply researched nonfiction (The Looming Tower, about Al-Qaeda and 9/11; Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief). This new book, however, is a novel, although you’ll be forgiven... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Fourth in a series of posts about US brands that are thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the end of March, a couple of weeks into California’s shelter-in-place directive, I used up the last of my flour on a batch of Marion Cunningham’s raw apple muffins—a recipe I’d first tasted,... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2020 at Fritinancy
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“An incalculable loss” reads the banner headline on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times. In small type, over a total of 16 columns, the paper printed the names and ages of 1,000 people—1 percent of the US total to date—whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, along with... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments (by telephone, because of the COVID-19 pandemic) in a case with special interest for those of us who follow developments in naming and trademark law. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office vs. Booking.com, the case argued on May 4, is the culmination... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2020 at Fritinancy
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It started with an ad that materialized on my screen for no apparent reason. “With CHANTIX, you can keep smoking at first and ease into quitting.” I don’t smoke, hadn’t been searching for anything cigarette-related, and—whoa, what was that goggle-eyed bird doing in a smoking-cessation ad? On Twitter, Bethan Tovey-Walsh,... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Back in February, during the Before Time, I wrote about a billboard created by the Lincoln Project, a group of prominent anti-Trump Republicans. The New Hampshire billboard I was not, to put it diplomatically, a fan. Last week the Lincoln Project made a much bigger splash with a one-minute video,... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2020 at Fritinancy
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Lynne Murphy wrote about the original UK slogan coronavirus slogan—“Stay at home/Protect the NHS/Save lives”—and its replacement (“Stay alert”), which was “mocked relentlessly on UK social media within a day of its announcement.” My own thoughts went immediately to an old joke, which I see is still alive and well.... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2020 at Fritinancy
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When I was a journalist writing about healthcare and medicine I picked up a lot of medical terminology. Last week, though, I encountered a word I’d somehow never learned: fomites. Even if parents feel comfortable sending their kids back to school as early as July/August (and many do not), my... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2020 at Fritinancy
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At last: a story that isn’t about COVID-19! Instead, it’s about movies; the US Department of Defense; the People’s Republic of China; and a bill, introduced last week by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), with an absurdly tone-deaf name. The bill is known by its acronym, SCRIPT. Here’s how Cruz... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2020 at Fritinancy
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“Allostatic Load Is the Psychological Reason for Our Pandemic Brain Fog” reads the headline on an April 27 story by Emily Baron Cadloff for Vice. The language may seem abstruse, but Cadloff quickly translates it into plain English: “I’m doing so much less than I’m used to, and I’m so... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2020 at Fritinancy
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This month’s book recommendation is The Plague and I, published by Betty MacDonald in 1948. The book is a lightly fictionalized account of MacDonald’s nine-month stay in a Seattle tuberculosis sanatorium in the late 1930s, when TB was known as “the white plague”; there were no effective vaccines; and treatment... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2020 at Fritinancy
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In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, I look at how and why we give names to generations, from Lost to Greatest to Millennial and beyond. (There have already been proposals to name the generation being born, or coming of age, during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Generation C”—for COVID or... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2020 at Fritinancy