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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

*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
References in classic literature ?
Brown threw up his bothered brow and rapped on the spade handle with an intolerance quite unusual with him.
Spades that cost half the price but last two years instead of 22 are not cost effective.
CAMPAIGNERS searching for the body of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett have found a spade close to the spot where he is believed to have been buried.
In February 2010, Lamya Abedin launched her label Queen of Spades at her brand boutique in Dubai's popular fashion destination Galeries Lafayette.
We need to divide this total by 5x4x3x2x1 = 120 as we are not interested in the order in which the five Spades are chosen, as all orders still give a Flush.
Most spades are square ended, that is, the blade of the spade forms a rectangle, and when kept sharp - it is after all, a cutting tool - will penetrate with ease.
If clubs break 2-2 and spades 3-2, East takes eleven tricks.
Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Digging Spade (EUR44) has a polished stainless steel head, wooden shaft and a fiveyear guarantee.
From 1992 to its retirement in 2002, Ace of Spades moved more than 300 million tonnes of overburden material and was a prominent sight at the 1,500-acre Stobswood mine.
When declarer won the ace of spades and lead out all his clubs eight rounds of cards had been played.
But when I turned them over, all 16 of the cards had the ace of spades on the back of them.
If the Heart Ace is assigned to West, then East-West have a laydown Seven Spades contract.
At most sites, when you log on to a group game like spades or bridge, you can "sit" at tables and watch, picking up strategic points, chatting with others, or just giving yourself time to pick up the basics of the game.
The Queen of Spades, by the Danish-born, London-based choreographer Kim Brandstrup, is a clever retelling of Alexander Pushkin's 1833 novella, set to Tchaikovsky's opera score of the same name, reworked by Gabriel Thibaudeau.
Some narrow spades have no shoe rest on the blade, so you can't drive it into the soil with your foot.