"call a spade a spade"

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Jun 18 18:12:28 UTC 2008

I've reread this thread yet two more times (and today with a clearer
head), and disagree that there is a prevalent opinion in the
discussion that irrational = nonexistent.

This seems to come from Dave Wilton's post saying he has never *known*
anyone to use the expression "call a spade a spade" with an
intentionally racist meaning. He also says that interpreting it that
way is *akin* to interpreting niggardly to the n-word. He points out
that such an *association* is illogical, but quite clearly says that
it *does* exist.

Andrea Morrow then responded that she grew up with people who use it
with an intentionally racist meaning. She points out that the
association is logical.

Then Arnold Zwicky says essentially that the association is obvious if
you think about it, but he hadn't considered it that way. He also
points out that there is a spectrum of offense-taking and that we
should try to be prudent when using expressions that have the
potential for being taken offensively. (I hope that is a good summary.)

I think this thread was illuminating in showing that "call a spade a
spade" has the potential for being understood as racist, something
that many people had never considered before. But I don't think that
any participant was trying to push the idea that if it's illogical, it
doesn't exist.


BTW, thanks to Andrea for giving the racist meaning of "call a spade a
spade," which is to use language daringly, without being PC with
respect to racism.

On Jun 18, 2008, at 9:43 AM, Charles Doyle wrote:

> The opinion seems prevalent among our list discussants that because
> a certain use or interpretation of the phrase is irrational or
> stupid, it should not exist--therefore it does not exist and cannot
> exist. Who would have anticipated THAT response from such a
> scientific and non-prescriptive congregation?!

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

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