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Call a spade a spade

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

: thanks


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.