Call a spade a spade  

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"Speak plainly, and say cu', ca', po' and fo'." --Ragionamenti (1534–36) by Pietro Aretino

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To "call a spade a spade" is to speak honestly and directly about a topic, specifically topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or embarrassing nature. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1913) defines it as

"To be outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness; to call things by their proper names without any "beating about the bush"."

Its ultimate source is Plutarch's Apophthegmata Laconica (178B) which has Template:Lang (ten skafen skafen legontas). Template:Lang (skafe) means "basin, trough", but Erasmus mis-translated it (as if from σπάθη) as Template:Lang "shovel" in his Apophthegmatum opus. Lucian De Hist. Conscr. (41) has Template:Lang (ta suka suka, ten skafen de skafen onomason) "calling a fig a fig, and a trough a trough".

The phrase was introduced to English in 1542 in Nicolas Udall's translation of Erasmus, Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte saiynges. First gathered by Erasmus:

Philippus aunswered, that the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

It is evident that the word spade refers to the instrument used to move earth, a very common tool. The same word was used in England and in Holland, Erasmus' country of origin.

The Oxford English Dictionary records a more forceful variant, "to call a spade a bloody shovel", attested since 1919.

The phrase predates the use of the word "spade" as an ethnic slur against African-Americans, which was not recorded until 1928; however, in contemporary U.S. society, the idiom is often avoided due to potential confusion with the slur.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Call a spade a spade" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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