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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
For the Visual Thesaurus this month, I reviewed a new book by Ralph Keyes, The Hidden History of Coined Words. (The publisher, Oxford University Press, sent me a review copy.) I’ve been known to coin a few words myself, for business (as a name developer) and pleasure (as a lover... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Fritinancy
Before I click on “Bad Names” as a blog-post category, I pause to reflect. Am I rushing to judgment, neglecting to account for the Zajonc effect, which tells us that repeated exposure to a name will soften an initially harsh reaction, and that we’ll eventually learn to love, or at... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Fritinancy
On April 8, President Biden announced a series of measures he planned to take, independent of Congress, to limit gun violence in the US. Among those measures is a directive empowering the Justice Department to stop the spread of “ghost guns”—homemade firearms, assembled from kits, that lack serial numbers and... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Fritinancy
I’d planned to do a roundup of books with identical titles, just to show you that copyright law doesn’t protect a title. (Some titles are protected by trademark, though. Consider the For Dummies and Chicken Soup for the Soul series.) I had Word by Word by Kory Stamper (2018) and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2021 at Fritinancy
“I’m tired of talking about Trump,” President Joe Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting in Milwaukee on February 16. “You had the former guy saying that, ‘Well, you know, we’re just going to open things up and that’s all we need to do.’ We said no, you’ve got... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2021 at Fritinancy
A new Amazon Original anthology series, Them, comes to Prime Video on April 9. If the title sounds familiar, it may be because you still have nightmares from the original (and unrelated) Them! (1954). Or maybe you’ve just been seeing a lot of pronouns in movie titles lately. What do... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2021 at Fritinancy
By one food expert’s count, there are at least 300 types of pasta, from teeny pastini to largish lasagne, and those 300 types have at least 1,200 names, depending on which region they’re made in. You might think there was nothing left to discover or invent, pasta-wise, but you would... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2021 at Fritinancy
On March 13, 2020, Merriam-Webster editor Peter Sokolowski noticed that all of the dictionary’s lookups were pandemic related: coronavirus, quarantine, draconian, lockdown, cancel. For the somber one-year anniversary this month, WGBH looked at how the pandemic has transformed the English language, and whether its impact will endure: Will people five... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2021 at Fritinancy
I’ve been writing about novel coronavirus words for just over a year now. (Remember quarantinis? What happened to all those covidpreneurs?) The latest coronacoinages—thanks to Ben Zimmer for coining that word—reflect a gradually changing reality: a new administration in the White House, increased availability of vaccines, and—underlying it all—the urge... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2021 at Fritinancy
OK, #hivemind, this one’s for you. My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “To Bee or Not to Bee?”, looks at the New York Times word-search puzzle that has become a popular pandemic pastime, both for solitary solvers and for social animals. Full access is restricted to subscribers—you know what... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2021 at Fritinancy
What kind of word is lingualer? A rare one, that’s for sure. In fact, it may qualify as that rarest of rare words, a hapax legomenon: a word that occurs only once within a context or in the entire written record of a language. We can thank Variety, the show-business... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2021 at Fritinancy
As I’ve noted here frequently, book and movie titles, like brand names, follow fashions and formulas. One of the longest-running contemporary trends is the “girl” title, a favorite for at least six years now. New examples (all published, or slated for publication, in 2021) include The Girls I’ve Been, Girl... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2021 at Fritinancy
I am going to do my best to explain the hot initialism of the week—trust me, I’m just as baffled as most non-rich, non-tech people—but first I’m going to tell you what it doesn’t stand for. It doesn’t stand for “Not For Tourists,” the series of city guides first published... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2021 at Fritinancy
Almost every day I get an email from a company called Oh! Nuts, a company based in Queens, New York, that sells kosher nuts, dried fruit, and candies for every Jewish occasion, including Tu B’shvat and Israeli Independence Day (and for non-Jewish occasions as well). Oh! Nuts mixed nuts snack... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2021 at Fritinancy
“Trade characters” like Aunt Jemima and the Quaker Oats man used to be much more common in American commerce than they are today, writes logo expert James I. Bowie in Marker. They were so common, in fact, that the US Patent and Trademark Office assigned six-digit codes to trademark applications... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2021 at Fritinancy
In a February 18 opinion piece for Foreign Policy, the Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Laurie Garrett accuses former President Trump of pandemicide, a word she does not define but which in context clearly means “causing death by means of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Garrett writes: Had I been a member of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2021 at Fritinancy
Better late than never: my February column for the Visual Thesaurus is all about the loving origins of amateur. I’d submitted it in time for pre-Valentine’s Day publication, but I’m not in charge of the site and [insert Serenity Prayer]. I wrote about amateur hours (capitalized and generic), amateur nights... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2021 at Fritinancy
My new post for Strong Language (the sweary blog about swearing) asks: When the old swears no longer shock, what’s an advertiser to do? One answer: swear-ify inoffensive words by inserting asterisks into them. Read “You bet your asterisk!” Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2021 at Fritinancy
I’m not betraying any secrets when I tell you that TURNCOAT was the pangram in Sunday’s New York Times online Spelling Bee. (A pangram is a word that contains all the letters in a given alphabet, in this case A, C, N, O, R, T, and U.) You’ll need to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2021 at Fritinancy
The pancake-products brand known for 130 years as Aunt Jemima—and criticized for that name for almost as long—has announced a name change. Beginning in June, the brand will be called Pearl Milling Co. Via PepsiCo This is a back-to-the-future choice in all the best ways. Pearl Milling Co. of St.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2021 at Fritinancy
Next Sunday, February 14, is Valentine’s Day, a date that honors the third-century Christian martyr who is the patron saint of epilepsy. In the Middle Ages, St. Valentine also became associated with courtly love; by the 18th century, February 14 had turned into the holiday amorous couples still celebrate with... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2021 at Fritinancy
The San Francisco Board of Education wants to dename schools named for Abraham Lincoln, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Washington, and other people. I think they should go even further. Read my latest post for Medium. P.S. If you like the story, please “clap” for it. You can clap up to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2021 at Fritinancy
Last week’s big financial story sounded like April Fool’s in January: Some mischievous day traders on the WallStreetBets subreddit noticed that GameStop, a struggling chain of brick-and-mortar video-game stores, was heavily shorted by Wall Street hedge funds—in other words, the hedgies were betting that GameStop would soon go belly-up. To... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2021 at Fritinancy
The new words are here! The new words are here! Merriam-Webster has added 520 of them to its online word hoard, including coronavirus words (long hauler), identity words (BIPOC, folx), and working words (coworking, makerspace, gig worker). * Speaking of dictionaries, lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower has compiled a new historical dictionary... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2021 at Fritinancy
This post was going to be a short riff on a line in that Inauguration poem by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman—the line about the vine and the fig tree, which got me thinking about figs. Mmmm, figs. But one fig led to another, and next thing you know I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2021 at Fritinancy