"call a spade a spade"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jun 18 01:30:51 UTC 2008

At 8:58 PM -0400 6/17/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>So the translator took a negative that Merkel
>spoke (presumably she said she did *not* "talk
>around the hot porridge", if I am interpreting
>that idiom correctly as avoiding an issue), and
>turned it into a positive (she *does* "call a spade a spade")?

Well, yes, but not beating around the bush is
indeed very close to calling a spade a spade; no
great violence to the meaning seems to have been
done by the idiom substitution, and I can see
where the former (unnegated) idiom might have
been a bit confusing in the context, as Jerry


>At 6/17/2008 07:57 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>>     Maybe someone already mentioned this
>>earlier in the thread, but Merkel (who, I
>>believe, speaks little or no English) did not
>>use the phrase "call a spade a spade."  I saw
>>her speak on a German news program, and the
>>expression she used in German was "um den
>>heißen Brei herumreden," i.e., when she was of
>>a different opinion than our president, she was
>>very straightforward in telling him so.  The
>>German expression literally means "to talk
>>around the hot porridge," and Merkel said this is something she did *not* do.
>>     The German idiom is usually translated as
>>"to beat around the bush."  Maybe since our
>>president's name is "Bush," the translator
>>tried to avoid this by writing instead "call a spade a spade."
>>Gerald Cohen
>>From: American Dialect Society on behalf of James Smith
>>Sent: Tue 6/17/2008 4:17 PM
>>Subject: Re: "call a spade a spade"
>>Or, is this phrase still used in European
>>English in its original sense, with no racial meaning?
>>James D. SMITH                 |If history teaches anything
>>South SLC, UT                  |it is that we will be sued
>>jsmithjamessmith at yahoo.com     |whether we act quickly and decisively
>>                                |or slowly and cautiously.
>>--- On Mon, 6/16/08, Paul <paulzjoh at MTNHOME.COM> wrote:
>>>  > 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

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

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