This message arrived via email, from one of the several word nerd services to which I subscribe. I don’t mind these emails among the congestion of junk and such. What I deplore are the donation pleas from members from both political parties and the expensive products that assure that I’ll look better and lose weight…

The word worth knowing that week was backfriend, defined as “a seeming friend who is secretly an enemy.” To be sure, most of our readers are likely familiar with its newer synonym, frenemy, but we believe that one can never have too many friends or words to describe people who seem like friends but aren’t really.

A Feind, a Fairie, pittilesse and ruffe:
A Wolfe, nay worse, a fellow all in buffe:
A back friend, a shoulder-clapper, one that countermads
The passages of allies, creekes, and narrow lands.
— William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, 1623