"call a spade a spade"

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Wed Jun 18 14:26:17 UTC 2008

>To my knowledge, no one has ever used "call a spade a spade" with the
>of it being racial slur. But that has not stopped some people from
interpreting it that way--not unlike the objections to "niggard" or

>The interpretation is not rational. It makes no sense, either
>or logically. But there it is.

Yeah, I've been following this thread kind of at arm's length because the
entire initial premise was false, i.e., that the spade thing is racial. To
call a spade a spade just means to tell it like it is and has, apparently,
since at least the 17th century. That some people are going to think it is
racist is, as pointed out above, on the same level as thinking that
"niggard" and "niggardly" are racist. Misinterpretation is a wonderful
thing. I wonder: if you have two CIA spies, one of them white and one of
them black, only the white one is a spook?

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Benjamin Barrett
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 7:23 PM
Subject: Re: "call a spade a spade"

Thanks for that. I had guessed at the meaning of spade, but how do you
use "call a black person a black person"? Would you say something like
"I called him a spade a spade"? BB

On Jun 17, 2008, at 7:17 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> At 6:54 PM -0700 6/17/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> What exactly does the racial connotation term mean? From this thread,
>> it appears to be the most common meaning in US English, but I'm not
>> sure what it would mean or how it could be used that way. I'm
>> familiar
>> only with the meaning of not using euphemisms or circumlocutions for
>> something bad. BB
> from AHD4:
> 1. Games
> a. A black, leaf-shaped figure on certain playing cards.
> b. A playing card with this figure.
> c. also spades (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The suit of cards
> represented by this figure.
> 2. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a Black person.
> Interestingly to me, there is apparently no etymological relation
> between this "spade2" and the digging tool "spade1".  I had always
> assumed they were related.
> LH
>> On Jun 16, 2008, at 4:39 AM, 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.
>>> 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).
>>> --Charlie
>>> _____________________________________________________________
>>> ---- 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?
>>>> dh
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG.
Version: 8.0.100 / Virus Database: 270.4.0/1507 - Release Date: 18/6/2008

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list