Call A Spade A Spade

Meanings of “Call A Spade A Spade”

The phrase “call a spade a spade” implies speaking the truth or describe what the situation is in a plain, simple manner. It also means to say the truth whatever it may cost. The phrase discards the need for sugarcoating the truth and leans toward honesty. It avoids “beating around the bush” and calls for an outspoken, frank and blunt statement.

Origin of “Call A Spade A Spade”

The phrase “call a spade a spade” is stated to have been derived from ‘spade’ used in a derogatory sense. It was first used in printed form by John Trapp in 1647 in his book Mellificium Theologicum where it goes thus: “Gods people shall not spare to call a spade a spade.” It was used with a racial term now considered offensive. However, since then it has been used in almost the same sense.

There is a former expression to this version of phrase came from Nicolas Udall’s “Apophthegmes that is to saie, prompte saiynges. First gathered by Erasmus”. The phrase was mentioned as: “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.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Call A Spade A Spade by Bernard F. Asuncion

Straight from the heart,
Speak truly and frankly;
However coarse it may be,
Say it right with sincerity.

A Rose by any Other Name
Still, has sweet fragrance;
But it spells a big difference
Between tango and disco dance.

Look me in the eyes,
Talk about gold and silver;
They shall eventually fade,
But diamonds are forever.

Saying I love you to someone
Requires a solid conviction;
Though it may sound sweet,
It may also end up in destruction.

In the name of greatest love,
There’s no room for lies made;
The truth will set us all free,
Let’s call a spade a spade.

This poem centers around ideas associated with the phrase “call a spade a spade” which has also been used in its title. The poet has presented various scenarios, advising the readers to always speak the truth, for “The truth will set us all free.” The poem clarifies the importance of speaking truth further by encouraging readers to have a strong conviction. It also says that true love can never be built on lies.

Example #2

A Spade Is Just A Spade by Walter Everette Hawkins.

As I talk with learned people,
I have heard a strange remark,
Quite beyond my comprehension,
And I’m stumbling in the dark.

They advise: Don’t be too modest,
Whatsoever thing is said,
Give to everything its color,
Always call a spade a spade.

Now I am not versed in Logic,
Nor these high-flown classic things,
And am not adept in solving
Flighty aphoristic flings;

So this proverb seems to baffle
All the efforts I have made-
Now what else is there to call it,
When a spade is just a spade?????

This fascinating poem about educated people who twist the truth. Beginning with a great attention grabber, the poet says that all learned men advise others to be modest and always speak the truth. However, they fail to do the same.  So, a man with less education speaks more clearly than an educated person when it comes to truth.

Example #3

Call A Spade A Spade by Jamie Wilson and Evan Felker

Well you got a ring you got a new last name
You got the same old eyes yea they’re the same
All the same
And you got a heart big enough to kill us all
But when you fall
Well damn you fall

You got a way
And you’ve got away with it before
And you got a look
That could drop me dead here on the floor
And you’ve got a touch
It’s the sweetest one i know
But I gotta go
Yea I gotta go

Although the phrase does not appear in the stanza, the truth of the words of the singer shows that he loves his beloved deeply and cannot stop himself from praising her. Therefore, the phrase has been used implicitly. It means that the writer or the singer has clearly stated whatever he deemed true about his beloved.

Example #4

It’s Time to Call a Spade a Spade by David Walker

As a final note, nowhere in the United States Constitution does it give the Supreme Court the right to rule a bill unconstitutional. Nevertheless, we have endured this incredible stripping away of our rights, with hardly a protest of any kind. It is a time to call a spade a spade and elect those who will work to turn this horrible miscarriage to justice around. I’m ready to do my part – What about you.”

This passage occurs in the book of David Walker, who berates the US Supreme Court for quashing bills that it considers to be against the spirit of the Constitution. He thinks that it is a miscarriage of justice and not actual justice. Therefore, he says that we should all call a spade a spade.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “John was telling facts without fear because he was taught to call a spade a spade.”

Example #2: Ruth knew she would get into trouble for calling a spade a spade.”

Example #3: “It’s not easy to call a spade a spade because most people do not appreciate or have a desire to seek truth and honesty.”

Example #4: “Once upon a time the Prime Minister was good at calling a spade a spade. As the years passed, he stopped believing in truth.”

Example #5: “Blinkus was known for calling a spade a spade, he always fights for the truth even if he has to stand alone.”