Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Frenemy

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 20, 2010

The term frenemy was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2008 even though it’s been around for quite some time.  But what exactly is a frenemy?

Aimee Dolloff of the Bangor Daily News in Bangor, Maine wrote an article “With Friends Like You” published on August 2, 2008 that stated:

A frenemy is an enemy disguised as a friend. One who brings you down rather than lifting you up … [snip] …The type of pal who makes himself or herself feel better by constantly putting you down.

The Colbert Report saw Stephen Colbert use the term on February 13, 2007 to describe the foreign policy between the United States and China.

The word frenemy has occasionally been attributed to author Jessica Mitford, Queen of the Muckrakers and notorious Civil Rights lawyer, in 1977.  Jessica Mitford is quoted in the book Decca: the letters of Jessica Mitford  as saying that the word frenemy was coined by one of her sisters when she was a small child to describe a:

rather dull little girl who lived near them — they were inseparable companions, all the time disliking each other heartily“.  

The word saw a resurgence in popularity on the third season of Sex and the City in 2000.

The fact of the matter is that the first recorded use of the word dates back to May 19, 1953 when Walter Winchell (1897 – 1972) joked in an article published by the Nevada State Journal:

Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?

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3 Responses to “Frenemy”

  1. Ganalot! » Blog Archive » Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire (with lyrics) said

    […] Frenemy « Historically Speaking […]

  2. […] other words, William, King of Scotland, was a frenemy in the eyes of King John of England … someone who King John had considered a friend, but whom […]

  3. […] to idiomation, the term was coined as early as 1953 when Walter Winchell joked “How about calling the Russians […]

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