in spades
Posted: 08 July 2018 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Did the term “in spades”, meaning in an extreme or emphatic way , come from the card game Bridge? I can not find much on it. How long has it been around?

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Posted: 08 July 2018 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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 OED says:

 

 c. fig. in adverbial phr. in spades, very much, in abundance, extremely. (Spades is the highest ranking suit in Bridge.) colloq.(chiefly U.S.).

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Posted: 08 July 2018 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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When is the earliest citation?

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Posted: 08 July 2018 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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languagehat - 08 July 2018 04:38 PM

When is the earliest citation?

1929 D. Runyon in Hearst’s Internat.-Cosmopolitan Oct. 62/2 I always hear the same thing about every bum on Broadway, male and female, including some I know are bums, in spades, right from taw.

Hearst’s international · 1925–

Alfred Damon Runyon (1880–1946)

phrases.org.UK

It’s easy to believe that this expression derives from the imagery of digging with spades and that ‘in spades’ is just short for ‘in spadefuls’. However, the spades concerned here aren’t the garden tools but the suit of cards. Spades is the highest ranking suits in the game of Contract Bridge, a very popular pastime in the USA in the early 20th century, which is when and where the phrase originated.

Despite the agricultural-sounding name and the shovel-like shape, the suit in cards has nothing directly to do with garden spades. Playing Cards originated in Asia and spread across Europe around the 14th century, arriving in England a little later than in Spain, Italy and Germany.

[ Edited: 08 July 2018 07:18 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 09 July 2018 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The significance of something being in spades is that in contract bridge the suits are ranked in this order:

1. Spades
2. Hearts
3. Diamonds
4. Clubs

The top two are known as the major suits, and a trick taken in a major suit is worth 30 points whereas a trick in a minor suit worth only 20; so if you win anything in spades you are getting a 50% bonus, hence the phrase. (It’s true that winning in hearts brings the same benefit, but as spades is the top suit of all (as it is in some other games), it just seems more natural to say ‘in spades’.

There’s also an amplified version of this phrase: doubled and in spades. In bridge, if your opponent makes a contract bid that you do not believe they can succeed in winning, you can call ‘double’, and if that contract is played your opponents will score double points if they succeed, but if you defeat them you will score double. So winning or losing a contract that’s doubled and in spades is a big thing.

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Posted: 09 July 2018 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks for the info, all.

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Posted: 10 July 2018 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Note the OED entry hasn’t been updated recently. Green’s is less certain, saying:

SE spade, i.e. ‘spadefuls’; note in cards spades are the highest suit

Green’s earliest cite is a different Damon Runyon quote from 1931.

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