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spade


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A long-handled tool for digging and cutting earth and turf; a spade is the emblem of St Fiacre and St Phocas. Recorded from Old English (in form spadu, spada), the word is of Germanic origin and is ultimately (like spade 2) related to Greek spathē ‘blade, paddle’.

call a spade a spade speak plainly without avoiding unpleasant or embarrassing issues. The expression is recorded in English from the mid 16th century, and derives ultimately from Plutarch's Apophthegmata, which uses Greek skaphē ‘basin’. Erasmus, perhaps confusing this with derivatives of skaptein ‘dig’, rendered this as Latin ligo ‘mattock’, and Nicholas Udall, translating Erasmus in 1542, used the word spade.

Subjects: History.


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