The phrase “sleeping with the enemy” is often used to describe a situation involving a non-adversarial relationship between two individuals or entities that would normally be unfriendly or adversarial. This frequently includes business deals between competitors, joint projects tackled by enemies, and political maneuverings that require the cooperation of competing parties. Sometimes, sleeping with the enemy involves cooperating just for the purpose of gaining inside information or the upper hand in a competitive situation. In other situations, however, opposing parties may actually work together for the good of a common goal.
In a personal situation, sleeping with the enemy could mean working with someone you dislike to organize or accomplish something important. For example, if you share a friend with someone you dislike, you might work with that person to organize your mutual friend’s birthday party. Likewise, you might work with a neighbor you dislike to accomplish important changes for your neighborhood.
In a business environment, it can be considered sleeping with the enemy to work cooperatively with a business rival. For example, a person might work with a business rival on a joint project, while secretly looking for weaknesses and ways to outdo the other person. This sort of situation can be very stressful for some, as hostilities may not be very well hidden. In other situations, business rivals may appear to get along well and seem enthusiastic about working together. Instead, each person may be seething on the inside and feel unable to trust the other person.
On a political level, a politician may find it necessary to sleep with the enemy to accomplish a particular governmental goal. In such a situation, a Democrat may band together with a Republican to work on a joint resolution. Often, this type of cooperation is met with suspicion from supporters of both parties, as each thinks the opposing party is planning to deceive or betray the other. One party may even be accused of attempting to take credit for the hard work done by both parties. Sometimes, onlookers worry that the parties may try to assert undue influence on each other’s ideas and political convictions.
Idioms are best defined as the peculiar formation of words and phrases outside of their standard context. Many of these expressions would sound absurd if you intended them to be interpreted literally, so they are instead categorized as figurative language. They are often used as part of casual conversation and have become an engrained, commonly accepted part of the English language. While it is easy to trace the roots of some idioms, there are others, such as sleeping with the enemy, whose origins are based on vague, piecemeal theories.
Where Does the Term Sleeping With the Enemy Come From?
You have more than likely encountered an unsubstantiated hypothesis if you have ever sought an answer to the question, "Where does the term sleeping with the enemy come from?" The little bit of information that is available lacks specific details. The most commonly recurring reference is to wartime soldiers in foreign lands who raid the homes where the women have stayed behind while the men are out fighting. While this is purely speculative, the expression has evolved today to mean the act of engaging in a necessary or mutually beneficial partnership with a rival.
History's many wars are also responsible for producing a number of other idioms that people would recognize today:
"No Man's Land"
No man's land means an undefined space between two territories. It is derived from Middle English around 1350 as an execution site outside of London's north wall. Centuries later in World War I, it represented the area that separated the enemy front lines from one another. Troops could meet here for negotiating purposes, without having to engage in battle.
"Under the Radar"
Under the radar means going unnoticed by someone or something. It originated in World War II when actual radar first helped some countries identify enemy aircraft. Planes could evade detection, though, by flying close to the ground, literally under the radar.
"Dodged a Bullet"
Dodged a bullet means to have avoided or escaped a particularly unfortunate event or fate. Its roots trace to war in a general sense, referring to someone who had been in the line of fire but never shot. More specifically, there is also a theory that puts its first use in World War I when aerial artillery shells were fired high enough for their intended targets to evade or dodge.
"The Whole Nine Yards"
The whole nine yards means everything that could possibly be included in a particular desire or circumstance. This idiom has disputed origin stories, but the version steeped in wartime history involves American combat planes in World War II. The gunners used 27-foot long ammo belts. Once they had fired all of their bullets at the enemy, this was referred to as the whole nine yards because there are three feet in a yard.
"Bite the Bullet"
Bite the bullet means to complete an action without hesitation despite the fact that the experience will almost certainly be negative. Common etymology for this idiom suggests that it began on the battlefield where medics, in the absence of an anesthetic to numb the pain, gave soldiers a bullet to bite down on instead.
How Do You Know When You Are Sleeping With the Enemy While Part of a Co-opetition?
The meaning of the phrase sleeping with the enemy is dependent upon its context. One interpretation evolved into a new concept altogether. The term co-opetition first emerged into the mainstream three decades ago and has steadily grown into the 21st century. It blends the words cooperation and competition and generally refers to a scenario when rival companies know that they are sleeping with the enemy. Both parties are reaping the benefits of an unorthodox business alliance with a direct competitor or rival.
There are several notable examples of institutions and businesses that have knowingly partaken in co-opetition or, as it might more casually be phrased, sleeping with the enemy:
- The technology companies Sony and Samsung partnered in the manufacturing of LCD panels.
- The automakers Ford and General Motors agreed to share transmission technologies.
- MIT and Harvard collaborated to start EDX, a library of free online courses.
- Apple and Amazon brokered a deal with their iPads and Kindles, respectively, that let the public purchase Amazon e-books on an iPad Kindle app.
- Ford and Toyota worked together to create designs for a hybrid vehicle.
- The retail giant Amazon invites smaller vendors to compete in its e-commerce marketplace.
When companies know that they are sleeping with the enemy while engaging in a co-opetition, it is a mindset shift from standard, strictly competition-based business practice. The potential reward in such circumstances must substantially outweigh the inevitable risk.