How goes the enemy ?

Posted by R. Berg on November 14, 2001

In Reply to: How goes the enemy ? posted by masakim on November 13, 2001

: : : I want you to answer my question. In Japan, one dicdionary says that How goes the enemy ? means
: : : What time is it now ?

: : : I have ever asked several English native speakers about this phrase, but nobody knew it .

: : : Please give me all your comments about this phrase.

: : : Thank you.

: : Go to the link - Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

: how goes the enemy?
: what time is it? Slightly facetious catchphrase apparently derived from a line in the play _The Dramatist_ by Frederick Reynolds.
: From _Dictionary of Catchphrases_ by Nigel Rees

: [Ennui the Timekiller:] I've an idea I don't like the Lady Waitfor't - she wishes to trick me out of my match with Miss Coutney, and if I could trick her in return - (_takes out his watch_). How goes the enemy - only one o'clock! I thought it had been that an hour ago. (_The Dramatist_)

Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day, quotes the same speech from "The Dramatist" and comments: "It almost immediately became a--usually somewhat facetious--catchphrase and it has remained one, although it hasn't been much employed since 1939. I used to hear it occasionally from my father (1863-1952), from childhood into early manhood: and I suspect that he no more thought of it as being a catchphrase than, at the age of (say) six, I did . . ."
Calling time "the enemy" makes sense for the character who is speaking, Ennui the Timekiller, "whose business in life is to murder the hour" (as Partridge says, apparently quoting Reynolds).