Toward the end of the latest Star Trek film, Captain James T. Kirk renders yet another in a cable of interlocutor decisions: that decides he will certainly join pressures with among his adversaries to fight one more even more dangerous enemy, rationalizing his decision v the axiom the “the enemy of my opponent is friend.” Spock, together ever, is an ext skeptical, and warns Kirk the this saying to be an Arab proverb coined through a prince who was shortly decapitated by his “friend.” It’s among the movie’s far better laugh lines—but is the right? Or has Spock’s Vulcan storage somehow fail him?This declare must have actually been do by his person half. The decades-spanning, cross-cultural history of the proverb is a tiny murky, but, unless our knowledge of background changes between now and also the year 2259, Spock’s story shows up to have no communication in historical fact: The adage doesn’t show up to have actually originated v an Arab, no one a prince, nor a male who lost his head.It’s true the the expression is frequently described together an Arab proverb. Longtime New York times language columnist wilhelm Safire learned this once he request around around the expression in 1990, in the buildup come the very first Iraq War: “Everybody i ask around this says, ‘It’s an old Arab proverb,’ ” the wrote. And a comparable expression go exist in Arabic: Safire quote the New York Times correspondent in the middle East, Tom Friedman—later to end up being a columnist for the paper—who told him of a similar saying he had heard in that component of the world: “Me and also my brother against my cousin; me, my brother and also my cousin versus the outsider.”But as soon as I asked various experts who research the origins of words and also phrases, none might support Spock’s assertion. Instead, they described the history provided by the Yale book of Quotations, which suggests that the expression is the review of advice given not by one Arab but by Kautilya, the “Indian Machiavelli.” In the Arthashastra, a foundational text of armed forces strategy created in Sanskrit roughly the 4th century B.C., Kautilya puts that this way: “A king whose territory has actually a usual boundary v that of one antagonist is an ally.” (Or, as his theory is generally summarized: “Every bordering state is one enemy and the enemy’s opponent is a friend.”) after ~ his death—whose circumstances are a small mysterious yet don’t seem to involve beheading—Kautilya’s counsels stayed influential approximately much of the people for centuries.In the West, the proverb eventually found a an ext recognizable kind in Latin.

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Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei (“my friend, the adversary of mine enemy”) was a typical saying through the early on 18th century, as soon as it showed up in publications otherwise written in Italian (by 1711), written in German (by 1721), and tranaltoalsimce.orgd right into Spanish (by 1723).From there, the axiom may have entered English through French. Together Garson O’Toole, the self-styled Quote Investigator, stated to me, the expression “every enemy’s adversary is a friend” was defined as a “popular” line of thinking in an 1825 English in of a French book, History the the occupation of England through the Normans. The adage take it on the an ext familiar English phrasing, “the opponent of my adversary is mine friend,” by the so late 19th century. The an initial recorded circumstances for this phrasing originates from Gabriel Manigault, who in his 1884 Political Creed explained the feeling that “the adversary of my adversary is my friend” as a “natural feeling.”

Natural or not, the expression didn’t appear in the New York times until 1954—where it was described, no for the critical time, together an “ancient Arab saying”—and only became a typical household saying during the many decades of the Cold War.

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Thanks additionally to Barry Popik, Ben Zimmer of the Visual Thesaurus and, and also Fred Shapiro, editor the the Yale publication of Quotations.