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do the spadework

To do the necessary preparatory work or research to successfully complete a given task or objective. Likened to working the soil with a spade when preparing to plant something. If you are looking to start your own business, you have to be sure to do the spadework first. I was up all night doing the spadework for my first case as a lawyer.

(as) black as the ace of spades

Completely black; totally without light or color. ("Spades" is a black suit in a deck of cards.) The basement gives me the creeps, it's as black as the ace of spades down there!
See also: ace, black, of, spade

call a spade a spade

To address or describe the true nature of someone or something, even if it is unpleasant. The term originated from a translation of an ancient Greek phrase, but is considered offensive by some due to the later use of the word "spade" as a racial slur. I know you like Jason, but he's a jerk! I'm sorry, but I have to call a spade a spade. You have to call a spade a spade and acknowledge the corruption built into this system!
See also: call, spade

(as) cocky as the king of spades

Conceited or haughty. Don't invite Joe to lunch unless you want to hear him brag about all the important things he's doing in his new job. He's just as cocky as the king of spades lately.
See also: cocky, king, of, spade

in spades

In large quantity or to an extreme degree. A con artist needs charm, and she had it in spades. This campaign has had drama in spades, but not much discussion of the issues.
See also: spade

spade up

To dig up and turn over soil or some body of soil with or as with a spade. A noun or pronoun can be used either before or after "up." You'll want to spade up the flower bed and mix in some fresh compost before sowing the new seeds. The ground was so full of stones and weeds that spading the soil up was an absolute chore.
See also: spade, up

*black as a skillet

 and *black as a stack of black cats; *black as a sweep; *black as coal; *black as night; *black as pitch; *black as the ace of spades
completely dark or black. (*Also: as ~.) I don't want to go down to the cellar. It's as black as a skillet down there. Her hair was black as a stack of black cats. After playing in the mud all morning, the children were as black as night. The stranger's clothes were all black as pitch.
See also: black, skillet

call a spade a spade

Fig. to call something by its right name; to speak frankly about something, even if it is unpleasant. (Considered offensive by some. Use only with discretion.) Well, I believe it's time to call a spade a spade. We are just avoiding the issue. Let's call a spade a spade. The man is a liar.
See also: call, spade

*cocky as the king of spades

boastful; overly proud. (*Also: as ~.) He'd challenge anyone to a fight. He's as cocky as the king of spades. She strutted in, cocky as the king of spades.
See also: cocky, king, of, spade

in spades

in the best or most extreme way possible; extravagantly. He flunked the test in spades. He succeeded at life in spades—honors degree, great career, rich wife, lovely children, and early retirement.
See also: spade

spade something up

to turn over the soil in a garden plot with a spade. Please go out and spade the garden up so I can plant the potatoes and onions. I will spade up the garden when I have time.
See also: spade, up

call a spade a spade

Speak frankly and bluntly, be explicit, as in You can always trust Mary to call a spade a spade. This term comes from a Greek saying, call a bowl a bowl, that was mistranslated into Latin by Erasmus and came into English in the 1500s. Also see tell it like it is.
See also: call, spade

do the spadework

Make the preliminary preparations or do the preliminary research for something. For example, The department head did all the spadework for this agreement. This expression transfers the heavy spading required to prepare for planting to other kinds of preparation. [c. 1900]

in spades

Considerably, in the extreme; also, without restraint. For example, They were having money problems, in spades, or Jan told him what he really thought of him, in spades. This expression alludes to spades as the highest-ranking suit in various card games, such as bridge, and transfers "highest" to other extremes. [Colloquial; 1920s]
See also: spade

call a spade a spade

If you call a spade a spade, you speak honestly and directly about a subject even if it offends people. In the meantime, Whyte is emerging as an outspoken voice who is willing to call a spade a spade. I'm not at all secretive, and I'm pretty good at calling a spade a spade. Note: You can also say that someone calls a spade a shovel when they speak extremely honestly and directly. He is never afraid to call a spade a shovel — and that is why he has universal respect in the game. Note: In a play by the Ancient Greek dramatist Menander, one of the characters says `I call a fig a fig, and a spade a spade'.
See also: call, spade

in spades

COMMON
1. If you have something in spades, you have a lot of it. The job required determination and ambition — and she had both qualities in spades.
2. If something happens in spades, it happens to a great degree. All this effort has paid off in spades.
See also: spade

call a spade a spade

speak plainly or bluntly, without avoiding issues which are unpleasant or embarrassing.
A variation on this phrase, dating from the early 20th century and used for humorous emphasis, is call a spade a shovel .
1998 Spectator A man whom I might not agree with where politics are concerned, but one who calls a spade a spade.
See also: call, spade

in spades

to a very high degree; as much as or more than could be desired. informal
This expression derives from the fact that spades are the highest-ranking suit in the card game bridge.
1996 Time Out Wit, vitality, heart, story-telling flair: the movie has each in spades.
See also: spade

call a ˌspade a ˈspade

speak openly and directly about something unpleasant: I believe in calling a spade a spade. When a patient’s going to die, I say so. Most people prefer to know the truth. OPPOSITE: beat about the bush
See also: call, spade

in ˈspades

(informal) in large amounts or to a great degree: He’d got his revenge now, and in spades.
Spades are one of the four kinds of playing cards. They are the highest cards in the game of bridge.
See also: spade

in spades

mod. in the best way possible; extravagantly. He flunked the test in spades.
See also: spade

call a spade a spade

To speak plainly and forthrightly.
See also: call, spade

in spades

To a considerable degree: They had financial trouble in spades.
See also: spade

black as night/pitch/the ace of spades

Very dark indeed. To these overused similes one can add ink (Spenser, Shakespeare), the crow or raven (Petronius, Chaucer), soot (John Ray’s proverbs, 1678), ebony (Shakespeare), and coal (Chaucer). The comparison to night (and also midnight) was more common in the nineteenth century, although Milton also used it (Paradise Lost), whereas black as pitch dates from Homer’s time (Iliad).
See also: ace, black, night, of, pitch, spade

call a spade a spade, to

To speak frankly and bluntly, to be quite explicit. The term dates from the sixteenth century, but may go back even to Greek and Roman times. One translation of Cicero’s Ad Familiares reads, “Here is your Stoic disquisition . . . ‘the wise man will call a spade a spade.’”There are numerous repetitions throughout the 1500s, such as John Taverner’s (“Whiche call . . . a mattok nothing els but a mattok, and a spade a spade,” Garden of Wysdome, 1539), and later uses by Ben Jonson, Robert Burton, Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain, among others. A cliché since the nineteenth century, it acquired a more sinister meaning when spade became an offensive slang word for a black person.
See also: call, spade
References in periodicals archive ?
"He's thinking about his sister and she's not going to get to go to the prom or the formal when she's in high school because she's probably not going to make it to high school, so he just wanted to give her that memory," Tony Spader said.
| Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris |Hemsworth), above, join forces with the other Avengers to battle evil robot Ultron (voiced by James Spader), right
Spader's vocal performance lends gravitas to his mechanised megalomaniac while Downey Jr predictably snaffles the majority of the droll quips.
Josh Brolin, second from right, salutes as actors, from left, Chris Evans, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany and James Spader stand near during the Marvel panel at Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 26, 2014, in San Diego, Calif.
While a few valuable articles on mock trial pedagogy (Vile and Van Dervort 1994; Ratcheter 1995; Kravetz 2001; Spader 2002) have appeared, they are more anecdotal and descriptive in nature.
Compounding this is the fact that it feels like Spader's already played a lot of roles like Shore.
He said: "After playing Harry Sparks, the East End gangster in The Long Firm, a strong, composed, mentally in control character, found Andy Spader the complete opposite.
In addition to the areas specified on his business card, Spader oversees capital expenditures, maintenance and servicing of all corporate facilities as well as the purchasing of nonresalable supplies.
The narrative centres on an alienated couple--an advertising executive named James Ballard (James Spader) and his wife, Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger)--who openly practice a bored promiscuity.
Ken Spader has been named vice president of construction, facilities and store planning.
James Spader plays a smiling hit- man mixed up with Dosmo Pizzo (Danny Aiello),a lumbering killer with an ill-fitting wig.(BBC2,BBC2NORTHERN IRELAND,BBC2 WALES,11.35pm) BLAZING SADDLES (1974): Director Mel Brooks' early hit is a comedy Western starring Gene Wilder as alcoholic fast draw artist the Waco Kid, Cleavon Little as an unlikely sheriff and Brooks himself as both a corrupt Governor and a Yiddish speaking Indian chief.
In this third adventure, Bobby and his pal Spader. another Traveler, chase Saint Dane to First Earth, circa 1937.
True, I had a delicious little scene in White Palace--just me, James Spader, Kathy "Misery" Bates, and Gina "Showgirls" Gershon.
The lesson is a bit different in this year's Curtain Call, a comedy in which commitment-shy James Spader discovers he has rented a brownstone haunted by a couple of battling vaudevillians (Michael Caine and Maggie Smith) whose marriage has been on the rocks since the Hindenburg went down.