call a spade a spade

Douglas Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Jun 18 06:05:22 UTC 2008

 On Tue 17/06/08  8:43 PM , "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" gcohen at MST.EDU
 ---------------------- Information from the mail header
 Sender:       American Dialect Society  
 Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"  
 Subject:      Re: call a spade a spade 


 Btw, I checked Google for Merkel's exact wording, and found  it in
the excerpt below. Notice that "call a spade a spade" has a
confrontational tinge that's lacking in Merkel's formulation. Even
the semantically close "not beat around the bush" has somewhat
aggressive/confrontational overtones. Merkel had to walk a fine line
between diplomacy (she's proud of restoring good will in Germany's
relations with the U.S.) and toughness (for domestic consumption).
Imho, she handled the task very well. 
 Gerald Cohen 
 [excerpt on the Merkel-Bush meeting]: 
 Freundschaftlich, offen, direkt und konstruktiv nennen Bush und die
Kanzlerin das bilaterale Verhältnis. "Es macht Spaß, weil man nicht
um den heißen Brei herumreden muss", sagt Merkel. 
 [Translation: Bush and the Chancellor call the bilateral
relationship friendly, open, direct, and constructive. "It's fun,
because we don't have to beat around the bush," says Merkel.] 
 Maybe the translator was a little confused about "beat around the
bush". Here is an example of some German confusion regarding "beat
around the bush" vs. "beat the bushes" or so (if I'm reading it
 I suppose the German idiom in question is based on a cat sidling
cautiously around something hot (again, if I'm reading it right);
here is a comparable expression, applied to Merkel:
 I guess in English one could also say something like "we don't have
to pussyfoot around the issues".
 But, hmmm, maybe this would be offensive to somebody or other ....
 -- Doug Wilson

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