NPR’s This American Life did an episode about frenemies not too long ago. In one act, they discussed the history of the word with Erin McKean of Wordnik. Amazingly, this seemingly modern internetty word was first recorded back in 1953 when Walter Winchell joked “Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?” The term didn’t show up again of note until 1977 and then again faded into disuse for another fifteen years.
The turning point for the word: It’s twenty-first century use in Sex and the City. Now the word is here to stay.
P.S. The link to the episode of This American Life is here.