I am translating a story with a word (kenka-tomodachi) meaning "quarrel-friends" or old friends who love to fight constantly about things as their basic way of interacting.

Can anyone think of an expression or a pithy saying that might capture these friends?

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    Pugnacious? Quarrelsome? Always spoiling for a fight? – ewormuth Aug 20 '15 at 19:57
  • Secondhand lions and grumpy old men, but if they haven't seen the movies, it'd probably be lost on them. – Mazura Aug 21 '15 at 2:03

There is the recently coined term frenemy

A person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

The earliest listing on ngram is 1968.

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    It's obviously a love-hate relationship, but I don't think that's what Russell is looking for: the only personal descriptor I could find was frenemy, so +1. Wikipedia says it appeared in 1953 (spelled frienemy). – Andrew Leach Aug 20 '15 at 19:45
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    Similarly: best enemies – dj18 Aug 20 '15 at 20:04
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    @dj18 and the variant, best of enemies – bib Aug 21 '15 at 1:32

There's Battling Bickersons, which was once a popular expression based on the characters of "The Bickersons", a late 1940s radio comedy in the United States. The titular characters were husband and wife and only spoke with each other to argue.

My main qualm about suggesting this is that my own reading of what I've heard of it is that the two actually didn't like each other.

  • I immediately thought of this but could find no online reference that used it beyond the context of the show. But I and my crowd use it as a generic description all the time. Thanks for including it +1. – bib Aug 21 '15 at 1:33

Either the idioms of odd couple or strange bedfellows can be used to describe a particularly peculiar pair.

A peculiar alliance or combination... Although strictly speaking bedfellows are persons who share a bed, like husband and wife, the term has been used figuratively since the late 1400s... A similar term is odd couple, a pair who share either housing or a business but are very different in most ways.
The Free Dictionary by Farlex

  • Odd couple is especially good because it brings to mind a film and television series of two men who were addicted to conflict with each other. --- I would forget about strange bedfellows because it can be so easily misunderstood. – aparente001 Aug 22 '15 at 3:04

Amicable bickerers is an expression I've heard which suggests good humoured verbal fencing.


'Emulous' adj. 1. Eager or ambitious to equal or surpass another. 2. Characterized or prompted by a spirit of rivalry. 3. Obsolete Covetous of power or honor; envious.

  • Copy from a dictionary without proper attribution is considered plagiarism. Please supply a full reference. – tchrist Aug 22 '15 at 12:20
  • @tchrist I'm sorry. I wasn't my aim to to do any plagiarism. It is only a word, easy to track anywhere. This time, my source was: thefreedictionary.com/emulous – Goggle Gobbled Tongue Aug 22 '15 at 13:53

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