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The phrase is said to have originated from the slang that was used for African-Americans, which is 'spade'. This was used in a derogatory manner in the United States and was popular in the early 20 th century. The first known publication of this term precisely is from John Trapp's work in where he claims that God's people would call a spade a spade and a niggard a niggard.
Original Art Greetings Cards. To call a spade a spade is to speak plainly - to describe something as it really is. 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 , 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.
It is also referred to as "let's call a spade a spade, not a gardening tool" which refers to calling something "as it is",  that is, by its right or proper name, without " beating about the bush "—being outspoken about it, truthfully , frankly, and directly, even to the point of being blunt or rude , and even if the subject is considered coarse, impolite, or unpleasant. The idiom originates in the classical Greek of Plutarch 's Apophthegmata Laconica , and was introduced into the English language in in Nicolas Udall 's translation of the Apophthegmes , where Erasmus had seemingly replaced Plutarch's images of "trough" and "fig" with the more familiar "spade. Somerset Maugham , and Jonathan Swift. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in ,  provides a definition largely consistent with contemporary English usage in the early 21st century. The phrase appears in Joseph Devlin's book How to Speak and Write Correctly , where he satirized speakers who chose their words to show superiority: "For instance, you may not want to call a spade a spade. You may prefer to call it a spatulous device for abrading the surface of the soil.