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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
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 2 hours ago 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 5 days ago 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
To be or not to be a stool pigeon? That is the “existential” question facing Hope Hicks, a former communications director at the Trump White House, according to the lede of a May 24 New York Times story: One of the best-known but least visible former members of President Trump’s... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2019 at Fritinancy
How to name a cocktail (and an etymology of cocktail). ( * From abactor to zythepsarist: a glossary of old occupations. (Family Researcher, via Suzanne Mantell) A schrimpschonger was a craftsman who made scrimshaw items from the teeth of marine animals. (Photo source) * The Pontiac Firebird, a classic American... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2019 at Fritinancy
Few of us are likely to duplicate the feat of Ammon Shea, who read all 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary and in 2008 published a book about his accomplishment. (I wrote about Reading the OED here and here.) But anyone with a spare 45 minutes can easily and... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2019 at Fritinancy
My May column for the Visual Thesaurus talks about how we talk about e-scooters, the rentable two-wheelers from companies like Lime, Bird, Skip, and Spin that have swooped into San Francisco, Oakland, and many other cities. Lime e-scooters at a downtown Oakland BART station. Full access is restricted to subscribers... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2019 at Fritinancy
This was going to be a short entry following up on a 2011 post I wrote about the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, an online lexicon of invented words created by John Koenig (the first syllable rhymes with pain). Koenig went on to achieve extra fame through his 2016 TED talk... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2019 at Fritinancy
When I’m asked to rename a brand, it’s usually for one of two reasons: a legal challenge (someone has a prior claim to the name) or a major shift in the organization’s direction (we used to sell housewares; now we sell jewelry). Neither of those scenarios applied to Resourceful HR,... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2019 at Fritinancy
I had not expected to be sent to the dictionary by “Schitt’s Creek,” the Canadian comedy series starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as temporarily embarrassed multimillionaires Johnny and Moira Rose, who’ve been divested of all their assets except their fabulous wardrobes, their helpless adult children, and the town of... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2019 at Fritinancy
I’ve finally gotten around to watching “Unforgotten,” the British detective show, now on Netflix, starring Nicola Walker (whom I liked a lot in “Last Tango in Halifax” and the National Theatre’s brilliant Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). Something about the title jogged my memory: It felt like... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2019 at Fritinancy
Whenever a word appears for the first time in the New York Times, a bot called @NYT_first_said auto-tweets it. (The name for such an occurrence is hapax legomenon, Greek for “something said only once.”) Then another bot, @NYT_said_where, follows up with a contextual link. On April 24, @NYT_first_said tweeted this:... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2019 at Fritinancy
The 2019 Deadspin Name of the Year is down to the Elite Eight. Vote for your favorites in a field that includes Pope Thrower, Pretzel Monteclaro, and Jizyah Shorts. Yes, they’re all real names. (Deadspin) For background, see my 2018 Visual Thesaurus column about the tournament. * How great writing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2019 at Fritinancy
Last Sunday, at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I saw the world premiere of a fascinating and disturbing documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, about the building of the Ark Encounter, a $102 million pseudoscientific tourist attraction in Williamstown, Kentucky. (You can read about the Encounter’s 2016 opening and about... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2019 at Fritinancy
Years ago, long before California legalized cannabis, I knew a pair of Jewish Deadheads whose Passover table always included “sweet herb” (wink, wink) along with the traditional bitter herb. (Or so they said. They never invited me to their seder.) I’ve lost touch with them, but if they’re still observing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2019 at Fritinancy
Looking for naming advice? Read my latest post on Medium, “How journalism can help you create a name.” (Free, but clicking on the clapping-hands icon may someday result in my earning a few pennies.) Curious about the origins of the “__ Nation” formula—Live Nation, Pantsuit Nation, Side Hustle Nation? I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2019 at Fritinancy
Here’s something do-it-yourselfers often overlook when they’re struggling to name a product or company: the importance of making something familiar seem unfamiliar or making something unfamiliar seem familiar. I’ve written about branding’s unfamiliarity principle in a new story for Medium. You can bypass the paywall to read it by clicking... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2019 at Fritinancy