Calling a spade a spade, and other phrases


#1

Continuing the discussion from How to combat manspreading on the subway - sit on the offender:

To the best of my knowledge, the origin of the phrase was in the Army. A spade is officially known as a “personal entrenching tool”, and many other common things also have overly complex names. That’s why they love acronyms so much. As a veteran and a former POW, I would be more inclined to think Mr. Vonnegut picked it up from that context.

But this gets me to thinking: how many other phrases come from similar innocuous roots, but due to words evolving we assume more nasty origins?


#2

“A snowball’s chance in hell” evolved from the phrase “[19th century epithet for a Chinese person]'s chance in hell” which was at best a reference to the fact that there were few Chinese Christians, but more often than not was just plain old racism.


#3

#4

I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of things that originated as servicemen’s slang took on different meanings when people got back home.


#5

A 3-for-1 (by my count), though one is so old it probably doesn’t count anymore –

“We’re gonna snatch that pussy and put him in a box and take him on an airplane.”

– George Carlin


#6

I always thought of racial epithets generally as "personal entrenching tools”. For those who like to dig themselves in deeper.


#7

Yeah, the Blaxpolitation-styled Bond movie where this is used is pretty cringeworthy. i don’t think the phrase is racial in origin though - it’s used in the Importance of Being Earnest in the original sense, with humour derived from class snobbery around proximity to manual labour.

“When I see a spade I call it a spade.”

“I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.”


#8

Speaking of over-complexity, when I worked for the local council, fire drill was known as ‘two-stage progressive horizontal evacuation procedure’. God knows what they came up with for buildings that had stairs in them.


#9

Which now makes me think of how some programmers need to be taught brevity in variable names. I keep seeing such names as

const LOGIN_FORMULA_TOP_RIGHT_WITHOUT_USERNAME = "Hi!";

#10

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