Posted by Gary Martin on July 27, 2000
In Reply to: Call a spade a spade posted by Sam McMillan on July 27, 2000
: What is the derivation of this phrase: call a spade a spade. Some folks in the office think this is derogatory and racist. I'm thinking it comes from the construction trades.
: any ideas
This phrase goes back to Greek text at least as early as 300BC and doesn't have racist origins. John Knox introduced it into English when translating a Latin text by Erasmus. "I have learned to call wickedness by its own terms: A fig is a fig and a spade a spade."
My own origins are so humble I call a spade a shovel.