Student or Learner
Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?
When will you acknowledge that two and two make four, and call a pikestaff a pikestaff?
call a pikestaff a pikestaff = call a spade a spade
Thanks for your efforts.
http://www.stockphotography.co.uk/Up...rked/6281.jpg). There is a fairly common expression in Br Eng meaning 'very clear/obvious': 'as plain as a pikestaff'. This makes sense (as long as you know what a pikestaff is); you can't hide a pikestaff - it's obvious .
I think the phrase 'call a pikestaff a pikestaff' may owe something to the more common expression; if the speaker doesn't know what a pikestaff is, 'as plain as a pikestaff' doesn't make a lot of sense, whereas 'call a <whatever> a <whatever>' is a fairly safe bet!
(Check where you found it; it sounds to me like a mistake made by a language learner. )
"When will you acknowledge that two and two make four, and call a pikestaff a pikestaff?"
W.Thackeray's "The Rock of Snobs" chapter XVII
Last edited by BobK; 08-Aug-2010 at 11:25. Reason: Correction
PS Mrs Malaprop (no s ) was a character in Sheridan's The Rivals, who gave the language the word 'malapropism' (=ludicrous misuse of a word). She referred admiringly to another character's 'derangement of epitaphs' ('arrangement of epithets') - among many other mistakes of the kind.
Here's a longer quote:
It does look as if he's using it as a variation of call-a-spade, but the 'best use of the latter' suggests something grimmer lurking underneath to me.And who has not met the Irishman who apes the Englishman, and who forgets his country and tries to forget his accent, or to smother the taste of it, as it were? 'Come, dine with me, my boy,' says O'Dowd, of O'Dowdstown: 'you'll FIND US ALL ENGLISH THERE;' which he tells you with a brogue as broad as from here to Kingstown Pier. And did you never hear Mrs. Captain Macmanus talk about 'I-ah-land,' and her account of her 'fawther's esteet?' Very few men have rubbed through the world without hearing and witnessing some of these Hibernian phenomena—these twopenny splendours.
And what say you to the summit of society—the Castle—with a sham king, and sham lords-in-waiting, and sham loyalty, and a sham Haroun Alraschid, to go about in a sham disguise, making believe to be affable and splendid? That Castle is the pink and pride of Snobbishness. A COURT CIRCULAR is bad enough, with two columns of print about a little baby that's christened—but think of people liking a sham COURT CIRCULAR!
I think the shams of Ireland are more outrageous than those of any country. A fellow shows you a hill and says, 'That's the highest mountain in all Ireland;' a gentleman tells you he is descended from Brian Boroo and has his five-and-thirty hundred a year; or Mrs. Macmanus describes her fawther's esteet; or ould Dan rises and says the Irish women are the loveliest, the Irish men the bravest, the Irish land the most fertile in the world: and nobody believes anybody—the latter does not believe his story nor the hearer:—but they make-believe to believe, and solemnly do honour to humbug.
O Ireland! O my country! (for I make little doubt I am descended from Brian Boroo too) when will you acknowledge that two and two make four, and call a pikestaff a pikestaff?—that is the very best use you can make of the latter. Irish snobs will dwindle away then and we shall never hear tell of Hereditary bondsmen.