August 25, 2007

"X and its enemies"

The phrasal template "X and its enemies" seems to be especially well adapted for use in the titles of books. I wonder whether any other snowclone can claim the names of so many: there were at least five "X-and-its-enemies" clones published in 2006, and at least three so far in 2007.

I also wonder where this pattern originally came from, and how it got established. The most influential exemplar, I think, has been Karl Popper's 1945 The Open Society and its Enemies, but it was by no means the first. A couple of quick web searches located a dozen earlier works titled on this pattern, and I doubt that I've found them all. I don't think that Popper explained what inspired his title, but Charlotte Franken Haldane's 1927 Motherhood and its Enemies might have been in the back of his mind. Or perhaps in the front of it, I don't know.

The best known recent example -- at least the best-selling one -- has probably been Virginia Postrel's 1999 The Future and its Enemies. But there were at least two the year before, in 1997, and two others in 1999, and then none in 2000 and one each in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Here's a partial list of "X and its Enemies" books, in chronological order:

Delta, Indigo and its Enemies; or, Facts on Both Sides, 1861
Leroy Foote, Christian liberty and its enemies: A book for youth, 1868
Bejamin H. Hill, The union and its enemies, 1879
John Nietner, The coffee tree and its enemies: Being observations on the natural history of the enemies of the coffee tree in Ceylon, 1800
J.S. Hunter, The Green Bug and Its Enemies: A Study in Insect Parasitism, 1904
Carl Gottfried Hartman Hartman & Lewis Bradley Bibb, The Human Body and Its Enemies: A Textbook of Hygeine, Sanitation and Physiology, 1914
William O'Brien, Sinn Fein and its Enemies, 1917
John Fremont Wilber, Progress and its Enemies: Showing the fallacy of the single-tax theory, and some other enemies of progress, 1918
William Ernest Hocking, Morale and its Enemies, 1918
William Jennings Bryan, The Bible and Its Enemies, 1921
Charlotte Franken Haldane, Motherhood and its Enemies, 1927
Fred Richard Marvin, Our Goverment and its Enemies, 1932
Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945
Ludwig von Mises, The Free Market and Its Enemies, 1951
George Kateb, Utopia and its Enemies, 1963
A.P. Thornton, The Imperial Idea and Its Enemies, 1968
Philip A. Kuhn, Rebellion and its Enemies in Late Imperial China, 1970
R.A. Adeleye, Power and diplomacy in Northen Nigeria, 1804-1906: The Sokoto Caliphate and its Enemies, 1971
John O'Sullivan, The Draft and Its Enemies: A Documentary History, 1974
Thomas Ford Hoult, Social Justice and Its Enemies, 1975
Thomas Molnar, Authority and its Enemies, 1976
Peter Paret, The Berlin Secession: Modernism and Its Enemies in Imperial Germany, 1980
Paul Oliver & Ian Davis, "Dunroamin: The Suburban Semi and its Enemies", 1981
Christopher Green, Cubism and its Enemies, 1987
Edward Alexander, The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies, 1988
William R. Tonso, The Gun Culture and Its Enemies, 1990
Asger Jorn, Open Creation and Its Enemies, 1994
John Honey, Language is Power: The Story of Standard English and Its Enemies, 1997
Kenneth Mills, Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640-1750, 1997
Peter Hart, The I.R.A. and its Enemies, 1998
David Watson, Against the Megamachine: Essays on Empire and its Enemies, 1998
Eunan O'Halpin, Defending Ireland: the Irish State and its Enemies Since 1922, 1999
Virginia Postrel, The Future and its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress, 1999
Max Skidmore & Max J. Skidmore, Social Security and Its Enemies, 1999
Ken Auletta, World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies, 2001
Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and its Enemies, 2002
William Coleman, Economics and its Enemies, 2003
Lee Harris, Civilization and its Enemies, 2004
Alexander De Waal, Islamism and its Enemies in the Horn of Africa, 2004
Daniel Cohen, Globalization and its Enemies, 2006
Roslyn Weiss, The Socratic Paradox and Its Enemies, 2006
Robin Cohen, Migration and Its Enemies, 2006
Cor Struik, The Independent Spirit and its Enemies, 2006
Edward Friedman & Sung Chull Kim, Regional Cooperation and Its Enemies in Northeast Asia, 2006
Jane Duckett & William L. Miller, The Open Economy and its Enemies: Public Attitudes in East Asia and Eastern Europe, 2007
John K. Wilson, Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and its Enemies, 2007
Marcus Collins, The Permissive Society and Its Enemies: Sixties British Culture, 2007

This snowclone of dialectical idealism appears to be even more popular in the titles of articles -- here's a small sample of the values of X that have been used at least once so far:

the passion, innovation, property, independence, the dream, the secular society, amalgamation, national sovereignty, population, moral purity, freedom, the enlightenment, internet gambling, migration, Israel, literacy, liberal education, algebra, Ambien, ...

[Update -- Robin Shannon points out the resonance with { "X and its discontents"}. In this case, the most famous exemplar is Freud's 1929 Civilization and its discontents, whose German version was Das Unbehagen in der Kultur ("the uneasiness in culture").]

[And Dan Tobias points out that X considered harmful is another example of a phrasal template with a long history of backgrounded use that was brought to the level of conscious cliché-making by a famous exemplar.]

[Zeno from Halfway There writes:

I immediately thought of William F. Buckley's book (written with Brent Bozell) McCarthy and His Enemies, from 1954, whose title is a variation on your theme.


[Emmanuel Maria Dammerer writes:

While reading your recent post on “X and its enemies”, I immediately thought of another “intellectual snowclone” based on Kant’s “Critique of Practical Reason” and “Critique of Pure Reason”: Major uses of the structure include Satre’s “Critique of Dialectical Reason” or Sloterdijk’s “Critique of Cynical Reason”, but there seem to be dozens of examples in both German and English (and possibly other languages, given the impact of Kant).

Robin Shannon’s example of “X and its discontents” has also led to snowclonification of the original title “Das Unbehagen in der Kultur” in two ways: It was altered to “Das Behagen in der Unkultur”, “Das Unbehagen in der Unkultur” and even “Das Behagen in der Kultur” by various authors. Also, there is the snowclone “Das Unbehagen in der X”, where X generally, but not always, is a compound word ending in “-kultur”.


[Jeff Erickson writes:

Your long list of "X and its enemies" examples immediately reminded me of my favorite mathematics lecture title: Bill Thurston's "Hyperbolic Geometry and its Friends".

There are a few books titled "X and its friends", but not many in comparison to the enemies list.]

[Nancy Friedman writes:

I very much enjoyed "X and Its Enemies" in Language Log. I've been making a small study of book-title snowclones myself (originally for a presentation to a client, later because it became a mini-obsession). I agree with you about the durability of "X and Its Enemies" and would propose a runner-up: "The End of X."

"The End of X" is a subset of the larger title snowclone "The X of Y" (The Audacity of Hope, The Elements of Style, The Grapes of Wrath, etc.). I'm sure my search isn't exhaustive, but I came up with 43 "The End of X" titles (list includes some fiction titles):

The End of Medicine
The End of Faith
The End of Poverty
The End of Iraq
The End of Oil
The End of Days
The End of Education
The End of History
The End of Religion
The End of War
The End of Fashion
The End of Reform
The End of Words
The End of Memory
The End of Food
The End of Suffering
The End of America
The End of Work
The End of Art
The End of Print
The End of Science
The End of Liberalism
The End of Biblical Studies
The End of Homework
The End of Racism
The End of California
The End of Sorrow
The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov)
The End of Southern Exceptionalism
The End of American Exceptionalism
The End of Ancient Christianity
The End of Time
The End of Software
The End of Hardware
The End of Diets
The End of Harry Potter?
The End of Beauty (poetry)
The End of Fossil Energy
The End of Early Music
The End of Barbary Terror
The End of Certainty
The End of Human Rights
The End of Laissez-Faire

I've identified two major sub-subsets of "The End of X." The first is "The End of the X," e.g.

The End of the European Era: 1890 to the Present
The End of the Old Order
The End of the World
The End of the Line
The End of the Battle
The End of the Alphabet (novel)
...and of course The End of the Affair

Then there's "The End of X As We Know It," which probably owes a lot to Clinton's "The end of welfare as we know it":

The End of Government As We Know It
The End of Marketing As We Know It
The End of Stress As We Know It
The End of Advertising As We Know It
The End of Capitalism (As We Know It)

For another book-title snowclone (I think), see Mike Pope on noun titles.

Several older readers have pointed to the earlier roots of "the end of X as we know it", especially REM's 1987 "It's the End of World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". Of course, phrases like this were clichés for many decades before that. The earliest example in the New York Times archive appears to be in a book review by Isaac Anderson, "The New Mystery Stories" that ran on July 3, 1938, where it is clearly already a hackneyed phrase:

At last we have Simon Templar, otherwise known as the Saint, in the role of a hero without a single new stain on his already considerably spotted reputation. Almost single-handed, Simon averts a war that might easily have spelled the end of civilization as we know it -- and all because he listens to a radio broadcast and then goes to a fire.

A decade later, on August 30, 1948, we get a story by Robert Plumb, "Engineer Says Vast Polar Ice Cap Could Tip Earth Over at Any Time", which threatens not just civilization but all of the world:

The end of the world as we know it now can be put off with a $10,000,000 engineering project, Hugh Auchincloss Brown said today in the comfortable old-fashioned library of his home here.

The 69-year-old electrical engineer, who has been practicing his profession for nearly half a century, gave warning of a horrendous fate in store for the earth. The rapidly increasing weight of the large Antarctic ice cap can tip the globe over at any time "just as you might roll a pumpkin over so that a frosted side would thaw out in the sun," he reported.

The article further explains that

... a thirty-five-year study of the earth .. has convinced him that the globe goes through a similar gyration every 8,000 years to compensate for the unbalancing effect of heavy ice formation at the poles. The present "epoch" is up and the earth is due to tumble like a run-down top. [...]

The New York area may find itself at the bottom of thirteen miles of muddy ocean water, along with most of the civilized world.

Mr. Brown recommends using atom bombs to blow chunks off the Antarctic ice cap, thus saving the civilized world.  You'll doubtless want to read the whole thing. And you can check out Mr. Brown's original writings here. (I hope that none of my complaints about the present state of science journalism have given any of you the impression that things used to be better.)

Returning, reluctantly, to the relatively boring topic of phrasal history, I can also cite The Friends' Intelligencer for Sept. 24, 1904, where the eschatology is of the more traditional sort:

It had long been a superstitious belief and fear of Western Christendom that the end of the first thousand years after Christ would mark also the end of the world as we know it.


[Andy Hollandbeck writes:

You may never see the end of these.

Another phrasal template that is popular for titles is "The Rise and Fall of X," with X being the Third Reich, Ziggy Stardust, ECW, Great Powers, Adolf Hitler, Stuey Ungar, Athens, an Empire, Legs Diamond, the American Teenager, the Slasher Film, the Plantation Complex, a Dictator, Heidi Fleiss, California's Radical Prison Movement, English, Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., and Alexandria.

My favorite, though, is "The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs According to Creation." It's a children's book about dinosaurs that "contains continuous Biblical references revealing God's marvelous hand in Creation and supportive evidence from the fossil record."

It's published by the Creation Evidences Museum.


Posted by Mark Liberman at August 25, 2007 07:01 AM