Have one's cake and eat it too

To wish 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 to want more than one can handle or deserve, or to try to have two incompatible things. This is a popular English idiomatic proverb, or figure of speech.

History

The phrase's earliest 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')OED|cake] 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. [ cite web
url = http://wsu.edu/~brians/errors/eatcake.html
title = Common Errors in English: Eat Cake
publisher = Washington State University
accessdate = 2008-03-26
] 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.

References in Pop Culture

*Comedian George Carlin once critiqued this idiom by saying, "When people say, 'Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too.' What good is a cake you can't eat? What should I eat, someone else's cake instead?".Fact|date=July 2008
*"Have Your Cake and Eat It Too" is a book by Susan G. Purdy.
*Bob Dylan changed the phrase in his song "Lay Lady Lay" in the line: "You can have your cake and eat it, too."
*The phrase is also alluded to in "Everybody Loves You Now" by Billy Joel; a song by the Jersey Boys; "Catch" by Kosheen (as "have your cake / and eat it"); and in "Life O'Riley" by NOFX.
*The live version of Eve 6's Inside Out featured the phrase.
*In his novel Flaubert's Parrot (1984), Julian Barnes writes: "You can have your cake and eat it too - the only trouble is, you get fat."

Unabomber Reversal

The reversal of this expression helped in the identification of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. In the Unabomber's "Manifesto", it was written, "...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. [ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE2D81E39F931A35755C0A960958260 New York Times]

References

External links

* [http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/26/messages/1075.html Post at "The Phrase Finder"] , quoting "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" and "The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings".


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • have one's cake and eat it too — {v. phr.} To enjoy two opposite advantages. * /You can either spend your money going to Europe or save it for a down payment on a house, but you can t do both. That would be having your cake and eating it, too./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • have one's cake and eat it too — {v. phr.} To enjoy two opposite advantages. * /You can either spend your money going to Europe or save it for a down payment on a house, but you can t do both. That would be having your cake and eating it, too./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • have one's cake and eat it too — verb To seek to have two things which are mutually incompatible (such as eating a piece of cake and yet still possessing that piece for future use). Do you seriously want to break up with her and still have sex with her? You cant have your cake… …   Wiktionary

  • have\ one's\ cake\ and\ eat\ it\ too — v. phr. To enjoy two opposite advantages. You can either spend your money going to Europe or save it for a down payment on a house, but you can t do both. that would be having your cake and eating it, too …   Словарь американских идиом

  • have your cake and eat it — phrase to have all the benefits of a situation when, in fact, having one thing means that you cannot have the other He wants to stay with his wife but still see his girlfriend – talk about having your cake and eating it! Thesaurus: to be in a… …   Useful english dictionary

  • eat one's cake and have it too — {v. phr.} To use or spend something and still keep it; have both when you must choose one of two things. Often used in negative sentences. * /Roger can t make up his mind whether to go to college or get a job. You can t eat your cake and have it… …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • eat one's cake and have it too — {v. phr.} To use or spend something and still keep it; have both when you must choose one of two things. Often used in negative sentences. * /Roger can t make up his mind whether to go to college or get a job. You can t eat your cake and have it… …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • eat\ one's\ cake\ and\ have\ it\ too — v. phr. To use or spend something and still keep it; have both when you must choose one of two things. Often used in negative sentences. Roger can t make up his mind whether to go to college or get a job. You can t eat your cake and have it too.… …   Словарь американских идиом

  • eat one's cake and have it too — use or spend something and still keep it He always wants to eat his cake and have it too and is never prepared to sacrifice anything …   Idioms and examples

  • cake — [ keık ] noun *** 1. ) count or uncount a sweet food made by baking a mixture that usually contains sugar, eggs, flour, and butter or oil: a chocolate cake a birthday/wedding/Christmas cake a piece/slice of cake: Would you like a slice of cake?… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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