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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
In January 2010 I wrote about a new-to-me word, buckraker, that I’d spotted in a Frank Rich column about the Tea Party movement. A portmanteau of buck (dollar) and muckraker (someone, usually a journalist, who digs into allegations of corruption), buckraker means “someone who uses fame or connections to earn... Continue reading
Posted 10 hours ago at Fritinancy
For my November Visual Thesaurus column I look at our language of nostalgia and retrospect: at the words, old and new, we use when we talk about the past. Words like Before Times[s], retro, oldie, newstalgia, fauxstalgia, and reboot. Full access to “Into the Past” is restricted to subscribers. Here’s... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Fritinancy
2020 has been a sad year, a scary year, an angry year, a lonely year, a grieving year. Above all, though, it’s been a weird year. Very, very, very weird—from the personal (sheltering in place, in some cases for months on end) to the social (no funerals, no parties, no... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Fritinancy
Yes, there have been other things going on besides the bonkers yet tedious aftermath of the US election. * The pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that it had developed a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine with 90 percent effectiveness, while another drugmaker, Eli Lilly, received US Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization for... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2020 at Fritinancy
Remember back in Early Pandemic, when we were baking bread and taking Zoom yoga and coining new words? One of the new words that gained currency in March was doomscrolling, “obsessively reading social media posts about how utterly fucked we are.” As I wrote in a June post, doomscrolling actually... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2020 at Fritinancy
On Election Eve, I’m taking a break from the anger and the stress. I’m looking back on a project I once participated in that gave me hope about America: the Art of the State book series. You can read my essay on Medium. And if you haven’t yet voted, please... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2020 at Fritinancy
Election Day, November 3: A polarizing Republican candidate who has spent much of his adult life heading a family business faces a Democrat who has spent most of his adult life as an elected official. The Republican has been branded as an extremist, a narcissist, and possibly a fascist—none of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2020 at Fritinancy
At an October 24 drive-in rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was heckled by small group of Trump supporters, who honked horns, waved flags, and shouted “Four more years!” Addressing his own supporters, Biden said: “By the way, we don’t do things like those chumps out... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2020 at Fritinancy
Cleo Levin wrote for Slate about “ridiculously surreal” made-for-Amazon brand names: “Here were a series of names that were not only unknown to me, but also quite perplexing: Artfish, Wishpig, Sweatyrocks, Demonlick, and Pukemark.” * Ben Zimmer wrote for Beyond Wordplay about Washington’s new Planet Word Museum, which opened via... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2020 at Fritinancy
In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, I take a look at a certain four-letter word that’s dominating the news lately. No, not that one. Not that one, either. I’m talking about poll. Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers. Here’s a sample: Time magazine, known in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2020 at Fritinancy
A TikTok video by QueenBV59, about her preparations for casting a ballot during early voting, was shared all over Twitter on Thursday. I’ve watched it half a dozen times myself. SHE READY — Meena Harris (@meenaharris) October 15, 2020 One repeated word—jush—was new to me and, apparently, to some... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2020 at Fritinancy
Lynne Murphy, a UK-based American linguist, blogged recently about “British words (most) Americans don’t know”—such as pelmet, quango, and bolshy. Many of the words were unfamiliar to me, an American who tries to keep with such things but doesn’t always succeed. (See, for example, my post about tannoy.) But one... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2020 at Fritinancy
This month I’ve been reading Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, published in August by Kurt Andersen. According to the publisher, it’s “the epic history of how America decided that big business gets whatever it wants, only the rich get richer, and nothing should ever change.” Andersen also pinpoints a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2020 at Fritinancy
Around the world, clothing sales have plummeted since mid-March, when shops closed their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19 and “slob-chic” became the order of the day. According to one estimate published in early August, US apparel sales could shrink by as much as 50 percent in 2020. There... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2020 at Fritinancy
My September column for the Visual Thesaurus, “A Slogan in Every Pot!”, looks at the history of political slogans—from “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” (1840) to “Build Back Better” (2020). Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt. Campaign slogans are “miniature narratives,” says Philip Seargeant, a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2020 at Fritinancy
How bad is it out here? On Wednesday, smoke from wildfires throughout the American West turned Bay Area skies an otherworldly shade of dark orange. The COVID pandemic is still very much with us, and most businesses and schools are at least partially closed. Bob Woodward’s new book about the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2020 at Fritinancy
Among the many, many political emails and texts filling my phone during this final pre-election sprint are daily communiqués from MoveOn, the progressive public advocacy group. Yesterday’s email, from the director of analytics, bore the subject line “This is a long email, but I hope you read it,” and sure... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2020 at Fritinancy
I’ve been reading some excellent books—more about them soon—but right now I want to tell you about a couple of interesting podcasts for language lovers. Word Matters is “a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class”; it’s hosted by four Merriam-Webster lexicographers: Emily Brewster, Neil... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2020 at Fritinancy
The COVID pandemic is still with us—remember when it was going to “go away in April with the heat”?—and so are the new words it’s inspiring. This is my fourth installment of novel coronacoinages; scroll to the bottom for links to related posts. Coronagrifting Architecture critic Kate Wagner, best known... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2020 at Fritinancy
Word of the Week (WotW) is on hiatus, but I do have some new writing on the Strong Language blog, where I’m a contributor. I partnered with trademark lawyer Anne Gilson LaLonde for a virtual conversation about two sweary (or sweary-ish) brand names: Schiit, which makes audio equipment, and Douchebags,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2020 at Fritinancy
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus was inspired by an email from reader Dan Freiberg, who sent me this photo of a bottle of Windex glass cleaner. “100% Ocean Bound Plastic” Dan wrote: “To me, this doesn’t mean what I think SC Johnson” — parent company of Windex—“wants it... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2020 at Fritinancy
This hand-painted map from 1981 is believed to be the earliest map of Silicon Valley to highlight the region’s technology companies. It was created by Corbin Hillam, a designer and illustrator of children’s books. Via the David Rumsey historical map collection There are lots of hidden treasures in the map.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2020 at Fritinancy
Is our modern obsession with showering just another form of hygiene theater? That’s the premise of James Hamblin’s new book Clean: The New Science of Skin, which Brooke Jarvis reviews in the August 3 & 10 issue of the New Yorker. (In May, the New Yorker published Jarvis’s wonderful piece... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2020 at Fritinancy
Yes, I am aware that hygiene theater is two words. Bite me. Am I cranky? Yep. It’s been a long four and a half months. I’m sick of the pandemic, the closures, the conspiracy theories. (I am not, however, sick-sick.) I miss libraries. I miss film festivals. I miss the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2020 at Fritinancy
This month’s book recommendation is Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, by Anonymous. Duchess Goldblatt—Her Grace or DG to her thousands of Twitter followers, myself included—has been an indelible, wholly invented presence on Twitter for some eight years. Her avatar is a 1633 portrait by Frans Hals, and her distinctive voice—firm yet loving,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2020 at Fritinancy