The Washington Post’s (August 12) article that came under the headline, “Emperor offers a regal critique of Japan’s drift away from pacifism” wraps up with the following episode:
“Earlier this year, as Merkel visited Japan she gave some veiled advice (to Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe): Saying that Germany was only able to build a good relationship with neighbors by calling “things by their name.”
I’m not able to find the definition of the phrase, “call things by one’s (proper) name" - which is shown in quotes - in English dictionaries at hand, nor by googling.
http://www.goodreads.com.quote cites an axiom, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” as Confucius’ saying.
Google Ngram shows that the phrase has been current since around 1880.
What does “call things by their name” mean? Does it mean to be straightforward or honest? Is it something like “Call spade a spade”?
Additionally what is the origin of this cliche?