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Speak of the devil

[ 2010-07-14 11:26]     字号 [] [] []  
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Speak of the devil
Nelly Min

Reader's question: Speak of the devil, she is one of the secrets of this company's success. Could you explain “speak of the devil”?

“Speak of the devil” is the short form of the idiom “Speak of the devil and he doth appear.” It is used when an object of discussion unexpectedly becomes present during the conversation. For example, if Alice and Bob start discussing Charlie while he isn't in the room, and Charlie walks into the room, Alice or Bob might say, “Speak of the devil!”

The phrase is an abbreviation of an English proverb, “Speak of the devil and he doth appear.” Deriving from the Middle Ages, this proverb was a superstitious prohibition against speaking directly of the devil or of evil in general, which was considered to incite that party to appear, generally with unfortunate consequences.

The phrase lost its overt message during the 19th century, during which it became a warning against eavesdroppers, and by the 20th century had taken on its present meaning.

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About the author:

Nelly Min is a journalist at the China Daily website.