The enemy within everywhere

No-sword has been flooded with literally tens of visitors arriving through Language Log's very kind sublink today, so I thought in return I'd post about something they love down there at the Plaza: snowclones.

Well, only one, but it is in Japanese:


(Teki wa X ni ari, "The enemy is at/in/within/etc. X." -- note pre-modern final form /-i/, which is what makes the pattern distinctive in modern Japanese.)

The original version was "敵は本能寺にあり", teki wa Honnōji ni ari ("The enemy is in Honnōji [Temple]"), Akechi Mitsuhide used it to kick off the Honnōji Incident (1582), in which he betrayed his liege Nobunaga. Nobunaga was staying at Honnōji, so Akechi surrounded it with troops and eventually forced Nobunaga to kill himself as the place burned to the ground.

As I write this, Google returns 43,100 results for Akechi's original version, and 94,700 for "敵は*にあり". In particular, it's a very popular way to say that the enemy lies within:

  • 敵は我にあり (X = "self")
  • 敵は身内にあり (X = "family, inner circle")
  • 敵は本能にあり (X = "instincts" [honnō, pun intended])
  • 敵は脳幹にあり (X = "brain stem")

But skimming the first few Google pages alone I find other versions apparently giving the enemy's location as:

  • Chiba (敵は千葉にあり)
  • South by southeast (敵は南南東にあり)
  • Akihabara (敵は秋葉原にあり)
  • The staff room (敵は職員室にあり)
  • Cambodia (敵はカンボジアにあり)
  • Roppongi Hills (敵は六本木ヒルズにあり)
  • The refrigerator (敵は冷蔵庫にあり)
  • The sky (敵は大空にあり)

Also, because ni ari can also be interpreted as an archaic copula, functioning more or less identically to modern desu*, the teki wa X ni ari snowclone can also be interpreted to mean "the enemy is X". I found examples of this pattern assigning enemy status to such diverse phenomena as:

  • Baseball umpires (敵は球審にあり)
  • Coca-Cola (敵はコカコーラにあり)
  • Code compilers (敵はコンパイラにあり)
  • Difficulty sleeping (敵は寝苦しさにあり)
  • Just hemorrhoids (敵はほんの痔にあり, another pun)

(Of course, there are some cases where a sentence can be in either of these two categories depending on context: S"Roppongi Hills is itself the enemy!" vs "The enemy is somewhere in Roppongi Hills!")

* In fact, ni ari is a distant ancestor of desu.

Popularity factor: 3


I have no knowledge of Japanese etymology, but is にあり at all related to the 也(なり)that also seems to have a meaning similar to the modern です ?


Yep, that "nari" is just a contracted version of "ni ari".


Is it just me, or is 敵は職員室にあり just hilarious?

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