Stephen Dubner kindly mentions The Baseball Economist today in discussing the similar names of our respective “disciplines”: Freakonomics and Sabernomics. Like Dubner, I’ll apologize for using an old cliche (here’s a list from the comments). The “onomics” suffix is abused about as widely abused as “oholic” from “alcoholic”—this reminds me of Homer Simpson’s line, “It’s true, I’m a Rageaholic…..I just can’t live without Rageahol!”
I don’t mind the comparison, and understand that timing seems to implicate me for borrowing Dubner and Steven Levitt’s idea. I don’t help the situation by being a fan the authors and mentioning Freakonomics on several occasions in my book. And there is no doubt that the success of their book has helped me pitch what I am doing. But, I want to set the record straight on the origin of this site’s name.
It’s not because I mind people thinking I borrowed their idea—I didn’t. Hey, it is was a good idea, and I would have borrowed from it had it pre-dated this site. It’s funny to me because before I started the website, picking a short name that captured what I wanted to do on the site was difficult. When thinking of a name, which I also intended to be the name of the book I was writing—the title changed once more before settling on the current one—everyday I’d bounce an idea or two off Doug Drinen. He would offer constructive criticism like, “that’s awful,” “beating,” and “dude, can’t you do better than that?”. One day I said “sabernomics,” and to my surprise, he liked it. If Levitt and Dubner would have published the book a year earlier, I wouldn’t have had to waste all of that time thinking about the name.
Also funny is that I received an advance copy of Freakonomics, and I wrote an early review on this site. I loved the book, but one thing I criticized was the title—talk about the pot and the kettle. I actually suggested “eXtreme economics,” which is about as lame a suggestion as you can get. I learned my lesson. When it came time to pick a title for my book, I told my editor to go with whatever he wanted. I said to him, “I’m the guy who thought Freakonomics was a bum title, it’s in your hands. I’ll be happy with with whatever you pick.” I am.