REMA’s SUMMER OF IDIOMS! (Special Edition Double Feature)
Original Release: 8/19/2009
What makes this a special edition double feature you may ask? Well, the following expressions are brought to you by TWO special guests!
Special Guests: Kelly & Alan
What was said? Have one’s cake and eat it too
Did someone really say that? I don’t have to answer this.
What does it mean? To have one’s cake and eat it too or simply have one’s cake and eat it (sometimes eat one’s cake and have it too) is the instance of an individual consuming, exhausting, taking advantage of or using up a particular thing and, then, after that thing is gone or no longer reasonably available, still attempting to benefit from or use it. It may also indicate having or wanting more than one can handle or deserve, or trying to have two incompatible things. It is a popular English idiomatic proverb or figure of speech and is most often used negatively. The proverb’s meaning is similar to the phrases, “you can’t have it both ways” and “you can’t have the best of both worlds.”
As an example, an individual who is engaged to marry someone but is still dating others romantically would be said to be having one’s cake and eating it too.
Origin: The oldest recording is from 1546 as “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?” (John Heywood’s “A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue’) alluding to the impossibility of eating your cake and still having it afterwards; the modern version (where the clauses are reversed) is a corruption which was first signaled in 1812.
Paul Brians, Professor of English at Washington State University, points out that perhaps a more logical or easier to understand version of this saying is: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too”. Professor Brians writes that a common source of confusion about this idiom stems from the verb to have which in this case indicates that once eaten, possession of the cake is no longer possible. Alternatively, the two verbs can be understood to represent a sequence of actions, so one can indeed “have” one’s cake and then “eat” it. Consequently, the literal meaning of the reversed idiom doesn’t match the metaphorical meaning. The phrase can also have specialized meaning in academic contexts; Classicist Katharina Volk of Columbia University has used the phrase to describe the development of poetic imagery in Latin didactic poetry, naming the principle behind the imagery’s adoption and application the “have-one’s-cake-and-eat-it-too principle”.
Interesting Fact: The reversal of this expression helped in the identification of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. In the Unabomber’s “Manifesto”, it was written and signed “…you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.” His brother David Kaczynski was able to identify Ted after reading the “Manifesto”. Ted and their mother both used the more accurate but older and less popular use of the phrase.
SIDE NOTE: Rema’s Summer of Idioms would like to welcome new subscribers Kari and Lindsay (both are Michigan Wolverines).
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