Speak of the Devil!

Lately, I’ve been on a kick to find out origins of popular phrases. One particular phrase has always peaked my interest: “Speak of the Devil.” When I hear someone say “Speak of the Devil,” I usually think of a person who appeared while they were being talked about (of course, I don’t partake in such behavior..most of the time). But the term didn’t always have such a light-hearted meaning.

During the middle ages in England, the term was actually “Speak of the Devil and he doth appear.” (Poetic and a bit scary..shiver me timbers -whoa.. Topic alert!) Around that time people took the phrase quite seriously because they believed saying the Devil’s name brought danger and bad luck. Luckily, during the 19th century, “Speak of The Devil” became less foreboding by describing an eavesdropper within earshot of a conversation. In the 20th Century, the Devil no longer terrified those who spoke the phrase because it simply meant your gossip subject was rounding the corner.

Many other languages share their own idiom and ode to the devil. Check out how “Speak of the Devil” translates in other languages:

Arabic: “عمرك طويل” (`Umrak ṭawīl), translates to “A long life for you (whom we spoke of)”
German: “Wird der Teufel genannt, kommt er gerannt” meaning “call/name the devil and he comes running”
Italian: “Parli del diavolo e spuntano le corna”, meaning “Speak of the Devil and the horns will appear.”
Spanish: “Hablando del Rey de Roma, por la puerta asoma” (Speaking of the King of Rome, through the door he appears).
Russian: “Лёгок на помине”, (“L’ogok na pomine”) meaning  “Somebody who appeared when they were mentioned”.

It seems “Speak of the Devil” is quite a universal phrase. Do you have a similar phrase or translation for this scary yet gossipy idiom?

 

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