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Can You Have Your Cake and Eat It Too?

Cake!
(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

My husband made an interesting point the other day. Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too? I’ve used the phrase countless times over the years, but I’ve never really stopped to think about it. If I have cake, I want to look at it, photograph it, share it on Facebook, eat it, and then brag about how awesome it was. Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too? I want both!

Sure, we all know what someone is saying when they use the statement, but suddenly the phrase that I had never given any thought to was perplexing to me. It didn’t make sense. Who would make up such a stupid statement? You don’t want to have cake and leave it out on the counter to get all crusty or moldy, right? So I needed to do some research.

The New York Times had a great explanation and helped to clarify the buzz over having cake and eating it too. It would seem that the phrase has changed over the years, which has muddled the meaning a bit.

The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs quotes a 1546 compendium by John Heywood, ‘Wolde ye bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?’ In his Yale Book of Quotations, Fred Shapiro supplies a more typical phrasing from John Davies in 1611: ‘A man cannot eat his cake and haue it stil.’

Now things were looking a bit clearer. If you’ve already eaten your cake it will be gone. You can’t eat a cake that isn’t there. Over time the phrase has gotten turned around, leading to the modern and confusing saying that many of us use today. If we are to say it correctly, it would be “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

What you can do, however, is to get into the kitchen and bake yourself a tasty snack then let all of your friends know that you did an awesome job. You could also go the easy route and head to the nearest grocery store to buy some cake. During the time that you’re actually eating the cake, you’ll have it and be eating it at the same time. There are ways around this.

To go back to an earlier point, I would like to share with you a piece of cake that I bought. It was a tiramisu two pack that I shared with my husband. I’ve taken a photograph, eaten it, and am happy to report that it was fantastic.

Cake for two!
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

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