call a spade a spade
A mistaken translation of Ancient Greek τὰ σῦκα σῦκα, τὴν σκάφην δὲ σκάφην ὀνομάσων (tà sûka sûka, tḕn skáphēn dè skáphēn onomásōn, “calling figs figs, and a trough a trough”). The word σκάφη (skáphē, “trough”) was mistranslated by the medieval scholar Desiderius Erasmus as σκαφείον (skapheíon, “digging tool”).
- (idiomatic) To speak the truth; to say things as they really are.
- Some take offence at this expression, because one sense of spade refers to a black person. However, this expression long predates that use of spade, and is etymologically unrelated: this expression refers to the digging instrument, the racial designation refers to the card suit.
- call it like one sees it
- tell it like it is
- beat around the bush, beat about the bush
- pull one's punches
- "Call a spade a spade" in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds, 2004.