From the greek for "to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough".

First recorded english usage of "to call a spade a spade" is in 1542.

In Plutarch's time this was a pejorative. Today the term connotes speaking plainly. However due to modern use of "spade" to refer to people of color, the phrase is often taken as racist.


References:
http://www.alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxtocall.html
http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/meanings/83700.html

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