This idiom is used when one wants to be straightforward about someone or something, in opposition to being euphemistic or avoiding the subject. The phrase has origins in ancient Rome, when spades were used in games including trump cards.

A “spade” is a shovel used for digging. A spade can also be a social slur referring to a person of African-American descent. In the psychological sense, the phrase “to call a spade a spade” means not to beat around the bush and come right out with what you really mean, or to speak frankly and directly.

In layman’s terms, the phrase “call a spade a spade” refers to telling it like it is regardless of what someone else might think. In academic jargon, the phrase “call a spade a spade” can be interpreted as an expression that alludes to one telling someone “the truth of the matter,” regardless of their feelings about it.


A person is able to “call the shots” when they have the power to decide what will happen. There are many ways in which this can be achieved, but it is usually through economic or political power. One example of this is the 2012 presidential election. The candidates are trying to show what will happen to people if they are elected, so people have a shot at influencing who becomes president by voting for them.

It is not unusual for bosses to make decisions on behalf of subordinates. This authority can be granted by an employee’s superiors, or it may be the case that the boss has more experience or knowledge of a particular area of expertise. The phrase ‘to call the shots’ simply means to make the final decision, and it is most commonly understood in reference to organizational hierarchies where the senior people have the power to direct those below them.

The phrase “call the shots” means to have ultimate control over something. This could be done by being in charge of a project, being the boss of an organization, or even by dominating in sports. For example, when someone says that they call the shots for their company, it could mean that they are the one who decides what employees should work on and what projects to undertake.


When one opens a can of worms the person is opening the proverbial Pandora’s box. This is because, once there are no more worms to can up, they will be free to wreak havoc.

A can of worms is a metaphorical term for something that will bring conflict or new problems. It typically means introducing a new topic to someone, especially if it is controversial.

The phrase “to open a can of worms” is typically used to express the idea that an ongoing issue will be complicated and difficult to solve. The term originates from the Latin phrase “vermes olearum” or “worms of a poor man’s dish.” This phrase was used by Aristotle in his writing, referring to the live worms often found in old cans of sardines, which were considered poor people’s food.

The phrase ‘open a can of worms’ is used to refer to initiating a discussion that is likely to lead to disagreement. It is most often used in the context of legal proceedings, where opening a can of worms means exposing the evidence and allowing the opposing side an opportunity to point out inconsistencies, flaws or mistakes.

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3 thoughts on “CALL A SPADE A SPADE, CALL THE SHOTS, CAN OF WORMS, OPEN A: American English Idioms #35”
  1. Hello, hind from Iraq.
    -call a spade a spade.
    Means is speak frankly and directly.

    – call the shots.
    It is usually through economic or political power.
    To call the shots simply means to make final decision who senior people have the power to direct those below them.

    -can of worms , open a
    Typically used to express the idea that an ongoing issue will be complicated and difficult to solve.

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