Speaking of the devil

diogerepus

Senior Member
Korean
A: I'm not impressed with her attitude.
Her bossy and domineering way is too much.
She always tries to keep everything under her control.
B: Speaking of the devil!
She walks in.

Is 'Speaking of the devil' correct in this context? Shouldn't it be 'Speak of the devil'?
 
  • mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Interesting question.

    "Speak of the devil and he will appear" or some variant thereof--- yes, "talk of the devil" in England--- is, what?, a proverb? Anyway, a commonplace.

    But "Speaking of ..." is a common way of steering a conversation. A: "_______ good bread." B: "Speaking of good bread, ________."

    So you could say that to use "Speak of the devil" is to employ the commonplace, while to use "Speaking of the devil" is to allude to it.
     

    Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    Interesting question.

    "Speak of the devil and he will appear" or some variant thereof--- yes, "talk of the devil" in England--- is, what?, a proverb? Anyway, a commonplace.

    But "Speaking of ..." is a common way of steering a conversation. A: "_______ good bread." B: "Speaking of good bread, ________."

    So you could say that to use "Speak of the devil" is to employ the commonplace, while to use "Speaking of the devil" is to allude to it.
    I have a brother who writes a weekly email letter and often uses as a segue, "speaking of _______, and I was".
     

    Lucretia

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hello!
    And if they spoke about someone they adore (in post 1), would it be appropriate to say so, too?
    Thank you.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yes it would. When you say speak of the devil what it means it that you have just been speaking about someone and then that person turns up when you hadn't expected them to.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    Yes it would. When you say speak of the devil what it means it that you have just been speaking about someone and then that person turns up when you hadn't expected them to.
    I quite agree.
    The origin is religious.
    To utter the name of a demon or devil is believed by some to summon the demon or devil. The saying reinforces that belief and includes the negative overtone.
    To speak of the devil is to summon the devil who is in this case the bossy domineering one.
    It is can be an implied insult and I would be very careful about using this saying within hearing of a person who has power over you.
    With friends it is cool because of the familiarity but bosses can grow horns very quickly if they hear that they are thought of as a devil.

    .,,
     
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