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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
This month we give thanks for WOTY, dictionaries, diet jargon, naming advice, and more. * Word-of-the-year season kicks off in traditional fashion with the Oxford Dictionaries selection. This year it’s toxic, as in toxic masculinity and toxic chemical. Interestingly, toxic derives from the Greek term for word for “poisoned arrow,”... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Fritinancy
In the lead-up to last week’s midterm elections, a friend of mine was sending as many as 1,500 texts a day to likely voters in swing districts: areas that had a better than 50 percent chance of switching from Republican to Democrat. I was hugely impressed until I read about... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Fritinancy
In advertising, out is in, prefixly speaking. “Built to outcomfort and overlast,” from Woodard, an outdoor furniture company. (Why not overlast and outcomfort?) Hat tip: Andy Behr, who saw this ad in the November issue of House Beautiful. “Out-deliver. Out-delight. Out-disrupt” on the Informatica home page. (Mere disruption no longer... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at Fritinancy
The acronyms aren’t new, just new to me – as in last-two-weeks new. The ism appears to be a recent (and helpful) coinage. BLUF. Someone – I regret I don’t remember who – recently retweeted this from the anonymous account “ScienceVet2.” So. Hi new people! Apparently, we're gonna talk about... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2018 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus is about The Big Disruption, the satirical novel by Jessica Powell that made waves when it was published earlier this month on Medium, where it can be read at no charge. Most coverage centered on the unusual publication mode, the Silicon Valley satire,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at Fritinancy
Duck Fart, Buttery Nipple, and other “yummy cocktails with nasty-sounding names.” ( * Tesla CEO Elon Musk made an April Fools’ joke about “Teslaquila.” Now the company has filed an intent-to-use trademark application for Tesla-branded tequila. (Bloomberg) * Video explainer: How the Beatles got their logo. (Brand New) * Moons... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2018 at Fritinancy
Democrats “have gone loco, they have gone loco,” President Trump told a crowd in Tennessee on October 1. He added, for the benefit of monolingual listeners: “They have gone crazy.” Earlier that day, at a White House press conference, he had used the same word to disparage another group on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2018 at Fritinancy
I didn’t expect to spot a domain trend when I attended Mad Props, “a night of live storytelling to help us all understand the state propositions on the 2018 California ballot,” held Monday at a funky club near San Francisco’s Civic Center. Honestly, I just wanted to become a better-informed... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2018 at Fritinancy
I spotted this truck a couple of weeks ago at the foot of Van Ness Avenue, near San Francisco’s Municipal Pier. “HODL FUEL: Coffee For the Crypto Masses. #PayWithLiteCoin.” Note: Because it lacks calories, coffee is not technically a fuel. HODL FUEL – both words are shoutily capitalized, and the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2018 at Fritinancy
Have you ever noticed a certain word a couple of times within a short period of time, and then started seeing it everywhere? The Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky calls this the frequency illusion*, and I was afflicted by it last week. The word I kept seeing was stunt, the noun,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2018 at Fritinancy
Mountain Dew, the neon-yellow-green soft drink brand owned by PepsiCo, evidently failed to consult anyone in Scotland before it introduced its new ad slogan, “Epic thrills start with a chug.” If it had, it would have learned that chug is Scottish slang for masturbate. (Jelisa Castrodale for Vice, via Language... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2018 at Fritinancy
Last month I wrote about the henchman in a New York Daily News headline, “All the President’s Henchmen.” This week my new Visual Thesaurus column looks at the whole phrase, which is an example of a snowclone, or phrasal template. (Other well-used snowclones include “X is the new Y” and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2018 at Fritinancy
It’s a frightful season for book publishers. Fear: Trump in the White House. Bob Woodward’s latest book sold 750,000 copies on its first day of publication, September 11. On Twitter, someone suggested a title for the sequel: Loathing. Feared. A new novel by mystery writer Lisa Scottoline about a law... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2018 at Fritinancy
I’m taking a breather from blogging while I catch up with some other projects. I expect I’ll return, but I’m not sure when. In the meantime, here are a few other pieces I’ve written recently. (The Visual Thesaurus columns have been released from their paywall.) Teledildonics (Strong Language) Swears in... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2018 at Fritinancy
A few years ago I noted the proliferation of girl-y book titles: Gone Girl, How to Build a Girl, Not That Kind of Girl, et al. (not to mention The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and her multiple avatars). The trend flattened out for a while, but lately it’s burst... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2018 at Fritinancy
This was the front page of the New York Daily News on August 22, 2018: “All the President’s Henchmen” The line puts a spin on the title of the most famous book (and movie) to come out of the Watergate scandal, which broke 45 years ago this month. All the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2018 at Fritinancy
Caterpillar, the heavy-equipment manufacturer, has had a registered trademark for CAT since 1949. Now it’s extending CAT to a footwear line. And not just steel-toed boots, either: these oxfords are women’s street fashion. (Duets Blog) * The method Google Maps uses to name city neighborhoods “is often mysterious. The company... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2018 at Fritinancy
On Friday, August 17, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that a case of measles had been confirmed in “a non-resident tourist” who had visited six Santa Monica businesses within a three-day period earlier in the month. No details about the tourist were provided, but at least... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2018 at Fritinancy
Mystified by bitcoin, satoshi, token, and cryptocurrency? Follow me into the blockchain mines to discover and polish some linguistic nuggets. I also look into one of the newer applications of blockchain: Voatz, which is offering voting by smartphone app to military servicemembers from West Virginia who are stationed overseas. My... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2018 at Fritinancy
San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center, a 1.2-million-square-foot hub for four Bay Area counties’ bus systems plus intercity Greyhound buses (and light rail, too, eventually), officially opened on August 11 to huge crowds. I skipped the festivities but heard rave reports from friends who'd gone, and so on August 13... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2018 at Fritinancy
The first incident that made national headlines occurred right here in Oakland, directly across Lake Merritt from where I live. On April 29, a white woman later identified as Jennifer Schulte made a 911 call to report that two African American men were barbecuing in an area not designated for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2018 at Fritinancy
The Brazilian footwear brand Havaianas – established in 1962 and sold in the U.S. since 2007 – is synonymous with colorful, rubber-soled flip-flops that sell for $24 and up. (A current model, studded with Swarovski crystals and suitable for wedding parties, will set you back $78 a pair.) I knew... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2018 at Fritinancy
Sorry to Bother You, now in theaters, was filmed in Oakland, California, where I live, with lots of recognizable landmarks in the background. But its characters are citizens of at least one alternate realm as well. The film, written and directed by activist-musician Boots Riley, begins as a workplace comedy... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2018 at Fritinancy
The inspiration for my July column for the Visual Thesaurus came from a magazine ad for a Schick razor. “Shave forwards and backwards” When I worked as a copyeditor, I was trained to lop off the s at the end of words like forward and backward. It’s what American editors... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2018 at Fritinancy
After important events, people often rush to look up unfamiliar words in news coverage. As a public service, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Twitter account often publicizes the top searches. Last Monday, after the two-party summit and press conference in Helsinki, the top look-ups were, in order, treason, abase, traitor, collusion, and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2018 at Fritinancy