- Speak of the Devil
"Speak of the
devil" is an idiomor phraseused in both written and spoken English. It is used when an object of discussion (normally a person) unexpectedly becomes present during the conversation. For example, if Alice and Bobstart discussing Charlie while he isn't in the room, and Charlie walks into the room, Alice or Bob might say, "Speak of the devil!"
It can also be used about a topic that quickly becomes relevant, such as the onset of rain or a car breaking down. Used in this sense it can be seen as an alternative to the phrase "tempting fate".
The phrase is an abbreviation of English
proverb, "Speak of the Devil and he shall appear." Deriving from the Middle Ages, this proverb (which was, and to a certain extent still is, rendered as "Talk" of the Devil...") 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. Its first printed usage in modern English can be found in Giovanni Torriano's "Piazza Universale" (1666), as "The English say, "Talk of the Devil, and he's presently at your elbow"."
The phrase lost its overt message during the 19th century, during which it became a warning against eavesdroppers ("No good of himself does a listener hear,/Speak of the devil he's sure to appear"), and by the 20th century had taken on its present meaning.
In other languages
*Bulgarian: "Говорим за вълка, а той - в кошарата", ("Govorim za vulka, a toi - v kosharata") translated as "Speak of the wolf and it is at the door)."
*Chinese (Mandarin): 说曹操,曹操到 (
Pinyin: "shuō Cáo Cāo, Cáo Cāo dào"), which translates as "Speak of Cao Caoand Cao Cao arrives."
*Czech: "My o vlku, a vlk za dveřmi", which translates to "Speak of the wolf, and he will stand just outside the door."
*Danish: "Når man taler om solen, så skinner den", which translates to "When you speak of the sun, it shines.".
*Dutch: "Als je het over de duivel hebt, trap je op zijn staart", which translates to "If you speak of the devil, you will step on his tail."
*Finnish: "Siinä paha missä mainitaan", which translates to "Evil is where it's mentioned."
*French: "Quand on parle du loup, (on en voit la queue)", which translates to "When one speaks of the wolf, (one sees its tail)."
*German: "Wenn man vom Teufel spricht..." (speak of the devil) and (older and less common) "Wird der Teufel genannt, kommt er gerannt" translating "call/name the devil and he comes running", both used like the English counterpart.
*Greek: "Κατά φωνή κι ο γάιδαρος" ("Katá foní ki o gáidaros"), usually shortened to "Κατά φωνή..." ("Katá foní..." "Speak of..."). The literal meaning is "Speak of the donkey".
Hindiand Urdu): "Shaitan ka na'am lo, shaitan hazir" which translates to "Speak of the devil, and he will appear."
*Hungarian: "Ne fesd az ördögöt a falra, mert megjelenik." which translates to "Don't paint the devil on the wall or he will appear."However this is mostly used when talking about a possible negative outcome of an event.When talking about a person, "Emlegetett szamár..." is used.
Indonesian: "Wah, panjang umur dia" which translates to "A long life for you, whom we spoke of."
*Italian: "Parli del diavolo e spuntano le corna", which translates as "Talk of the Devil and the horns will appear."
*Japanese: "うわさをすれば影” (uwasa o sureba kage), which translates to "Gossip (about someone) and he will appear."
*Korean: "호랑이도 제 말하면 온다” (horangi do jae malhamyun onda), which translates to "If you talk about a tiger, it will appear."
*Norwegian: "Snakker om sola, så skinner'n", which translates to "Speak of the sun, and it shines."
*Polish: "O wilku mowa, (a wilk tuż tuż).", which translates to "Speak of the wolf (and wolfs approaching)."
*Portuguese: "Falando do rei de Roma," which translates to "speaking of the king of Rome", or "Falando do Diabo...(apareceu o rabo)", which translates "Speak of the devil (his tail appears)".
*Romanian: "Vorbeşti de lup şi lupul la uşă", translated as "Speak of the wolf and the wolf [is] at the door."
*Russian: "Помяни чёрта(, он и появится)", ("Pomyani chorta, on i poyavitsya") translated as "Speak of the devil (and there he is)."
*Serbian: "Ми о вуку, (вук на врата)", ("Mi o vuku, vuk na vrata") translated as "Speak of the wolf (and the wolf [is] at the door)."
*Spanish: "Hablando del rey de Roma" (literally "Speaking of the King of Rome") is an equivalent, also an abbreviation, in this case of "Hablando del Rey de Roma, por la ventana se asoma" (Speaking of the King Of Rome, through the window he appears).
*Swedish: "När man talar om trollen (så står de i farstun)", which translates to "When you speak of the
trolls(they stand in the entrance hall)."
*Vietnamese: "Vừa nhắc Tào Tháo, Tào Tháo tới", which translates to "Speak of Tào Tháo and he appears immediately" (Tào Tháo is a general in ancient China)
[http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/speak-of-the-devil.html 'Speak of the Devil', from the Phrase Finder]
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