"call a spade a spade"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Jun 20 01:14:24 UTC 2008

        . . . how delighted would the Bard of Avon have been to see his Richard performed by a fellow black as the ace of spades.
National Advocate, September 21, 1821, p. 2, col. 4

This refers to the first performance of "The African Theatre", by the way.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 10:26 am
Subject: Re: "call a spade a spade"

> At 6/18/2008 08:33 AM, Murrah Lee wrote:
> >The term "spade" for an American black person probably derives from
> >the phrase, "black as the ace of spades," which was used at least in
> >East Texas in the 1950s to describe a particularly black-skinned person.
> This is what I remember also -- although I couldn't say from when.
> 1882,   s.v. "manually, adv.":  G. A. SALA Amer.
> Revisited (1885) 185 An obliging waiter..facially
> and manually as black as the Ace of Spades.  OED.
> 1827, confirmed, The Table Book, by William Hone
> [2 vols.], page 181:  "She was, as her counsel
> represented, truly made up of flesh and blood,
> being what is called a strapping wench, as black
> as the ace of spades."  London, Hunt and
> Clark.  In "Loves of the Negroes. At New Paltz,
> United States. Phillis Schoonmaker v. Cuff
> Hogeboon."  (Its second sentence is "The parties,
> as their names indicate, were black, or, as
> philanthropists would say, _coloured folk_.)
> Google Books  I note that Phillis and Cuff are
> common names in the "bobalition" broadsides,
> which IIRC date from the 1820s; see John Wood Sweet, _Bodies Politic_.

> And many others.
> It's also, Google tells me, in Cassell's
> Dictionary of Slang, ed. 2006; and The New
> Partridge ..., 2006.  Do those give dates?
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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