In an earlier post the idiom "Calling a spade a spade" was used and some were concerned that it was a racist statement.
Being of a curious nature and knowing that I had read that phrase somewhere and not having anything better to do
I did a wee bit of research (googled) and found some interesting information.
If anyone wants to add a phrase and continue this post, I think it would be interesting to read.
Iím cobbling together many on line resources here which Iím not including, partly not to bore you and partly because Mu, the kitten, is trying to steal my straw and Iím trying to stop her.
So here is the definition of the phrase and some other interesting information about the phrase. BTW, Ethel Waters, who I quoted, sounds like a fascinating woman. I canít wait to read her entire bio.
Second BTW Ė Please, no knee jerk reactions to some of the older phrases and usages of words. They are what they are and were used at the time.
ďTo speak plainly - to describe something as it really is.Ē
It might be thought that this derives from the derogatory use of the slang term 'spade', meaning Negro, an American term originating in the 20th century. That view of it as derogatory might also be thought to be supported by this piece from John Trapp's Mellificium theologicum, or the marrow of many good authors, 1647
"Gods people shall not spare to call a spade a spade, a niggard a niggard."
Trapp's use of 'niggard' is difficult to interpret. The word had several meanings in the 17th century. It could be used to mean 'miser', which is the more common usage today, or as a general term of abuse - 'lout', 'barbarian' etc. The word was also used as the name of firebricks in grates.
The co-incidence in form and pronuctiation of 'niggard' and 'nigger' causes some confusion. Although the two words probably derived independently, they doubtless affected each other's development of meaning over time.
Whatever Trapp's intention was, we can be confident that he didn't mean 'nigger' or 'negro'.
There are other references to the phrase dating back to 1542.
More recent use of the phrase:
When I see a spade I call it a spade. : I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. ó Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest, act 3.
I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for. Oscar Wilde
Let's call a spade a spade - a lot of times when you are a vegetarian it is a just not very effective eating disorder. Lena Dunham
The white audiences thought I was white, my features being what they are, and at every performance I'd have to take off my gloves to prove I was a spade. Ethel Waters (Note: I had heard of this lady but didnít really know anything about her, so looked her up. Fascinating lady, I added some bio info on her at the end).
So, the expression to call a spade a spade is thousands of years old and etymologically has nothing whatsoever to do with any racial sentiment. In spite of this, some people think it is a racial statement, and therefore it should be treated with some caution.
Spade meaning 'a black person' is far more recent; it is first found in the early twentieth century. It derives from the black color of the suit of spades in a deck of playing cards.
Clearly our expression to call a spade a spade was very well established long before the word spade had any racial sense. However, today the word does have a racial sense. If the expression is assumed to be offensive, it should be used with caution even if there's no real basis for the assumption.
31 October 1896 -1 September 1977 Nickname - Sweet Mama Stringbean
The child of a teenage rape victim she grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, "No one raised me," she recollected, "I just ran wild." She excelled not only at looking after herself, but also at singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions, and as a teenager was locally renowned for her "hip shimmy shake".
In 1917 she made her debut on the black vaudeville circuit; billed as "Sweet Mama Stringbean" for her tall, lithe build, she broke through with her rendition of "St. Louis Blues. Beginning with her appearances in Harlem nightclubs in the late 1920s, then on the lucrative "white time" vaudeville circuit, she became one of America's most celebrated and highest-paid entertainers. At the Cotton Club, she introduced "Stormy Weather: she wrote of her performance, "I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, the story of the wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted.Ē Irving Berlin wrote "Supper Time", a song about a lynching, for Waters to perform in a Broadway revue. She later became the first African-American star of a national radio show. In middle age, first on Broadway and then in the movies, she successfully recast herself as a dramatic actress. Devoutly religious but famously difficult to get along with, Waters found few roles worthy of her talents in her later years.
She sang with the Billy Graham Crusade in her later years, always to a warm reception, and recorded several albums of sacred music for Word Records. She was the second African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. The first was Hattie McDaniel, who won for her performance in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Her favorite hymn was "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." She used it for the title of her autobiography.
Last BTW...Mu got the straw.