How did the phrase “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” come to mean what it does? I have heard that in England their version is “You can’t eat your cake and have it too” which seems to make a little more sense.

If you have cake, why can’t you eat it too? Contrarily, if you have eaten your cake (all of it) than you can’t have it too.

Any idea how this got twisted around?

but what makes sense to me is this:

If you give me a cake, I have it.

If I eat it, I no longer have it, I have eaten it.

But I want to continue having it after I have already eaten it, and this is not possible.

just my take

Pardon my confusion, but don’t both versions of the saying mean exactly the same thing? “A and B” is identical to “B and A”.

Not in this case. In order to eat cake, you must have cake. Therefore cake-having precedes cake-eating. However, eating one’s cake terminates cake-having. Having cake in your stomach is not functionally equivalent to having it on your plate.

At least not in my house.


[sup]See? I can, too pick nits![/sup]

You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

You cannot hold a piece of cake in your hand, claiming ownership of it, after it has traveled to your stomach through your mouth. It is then digested and becomes feces.

I think what we’re dealing with here is not ‘“A and B” is identical to “B and A”.’ Rather, it’s “A occurs, then B” is not identical to “B occurs, then A”

I think that if one has cake, one CAN eat it, too. Or throw it, freeze it, share it, whatever. First you must have it. But if one eats one’s cake, then the option of having it disappears. Consequently, in order for the saying to mean what we’d like it to mean (“You can’t have it both ways”)shouldn’t we all be saying “You can’t eat your cake and have it too” as opposed to the other way around?

If you have cake, in the sense of having dinner, then you ARE eating it at the very time you are having it, and the original saying is rendered nonsensical (which is really what the rebellious side of us wants to do anyway–show up the folks who told us this nonsense in the first place).

Gosh, I always thought that it was somewhat of a warning about wanting more good stuff when you already had good stuff.

Let’s say that kid gets PS2 for the winter holiday of your choice. Due to the gouging price tag, same kid gets 1 game for it.

Now let’s say that kid complains that only he/she has only 1 game for PS2. Kid is complaining about the one game when he/she has JUST GOTTEN A PS2!!!

It is at this point that kid’s father must say “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” (it’s in the contract; dad’s have to say it).

This comes from cake being more special than bread in ye olde days and to be able to have and eat the cake (normally expected) is likened to a double whammy of goodness.

Se non e vero, e ben trovato


I always understood that YCHYCAEIT meant “You can’t have it both ways” but it bothered me too that it was backwards.

Dad, I think what you’re looking for is not “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” but “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Or “There are starving kids in Africa who don’t have PS2 at all.” :slight_smile: