"call a spade a spade"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 16 15:41:14 UTC 2008

At 7:39 AM -0400 6/16/08, Charles Doyle wrote:
>For some speakers of American English (by no means all of them), the
>word "spade" has lost all applications except for use as a
>derogatory racial designation.

Any such Americans must not play a lot of cards.  I haven't heard of
any card-players (of whatever racial background or political
leanings) employing euphemisms to avoid referring to cards of that
suit.  Of course in that context, or those of garden tools, a spade
couldn't be a person, where in an underspecified context like that of
"call(ing) a spade a spade" it could be, and thus the phrase might be
more likely to be avoided.


>On the reanalysis of the proverbial phrase "call a spade a spade,"
>one might consult Wolfgang Mieder's monograph _Call a Spade a Spade:
>>From Classical Phrase to Racial Slur_ (NY: Peter Lang, 2002).
>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2008 00:02:08 -0400
>>From: Doug Harris <cats22 at FRONTIERNET.NET>
>The Same Dowd piece, datelined Paris, also included this:
>>'Angela Merkel dodged when asked at a press conference whether she
>>would miss W., but said she liked being able to "call a spade a
>>spade with him."'
>>Twas that a fox paw, an indication of a lack of familiarity with
>>American vernacular, or merely a hopefully-NOT noteworthy phrase?
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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