Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Phrase Explained

"He wants to have his cake and eat it, too."

That phrase NEVER made sense to me. We all know what it's supposed to be about -- having everything your way even though all of the things you want are contradictory -- but at face value, well, why can't you have cake and eat it? Who has cake, and leaves it sitting in front of him untouched?

But then, Super Ninja and I watched "Micki + Maude" recently, and one of the supporting characters used this expression to describe the main character's spiral into bigamy. Appropriate choice of idiom, yes? An irritated Rob Salinger, the main character, explained to his friend that he'd used the phrase incorrectly. The original saying is this:

"He wants to eat his cake and have it, too."

ONE little transposition of a clause, and suddenly the phrase paints a clear picture of a personality type instead of confusing me. I can only assume that the bastardized version of this expression annoyed Jonathan Reynolds beyond all measure, and he had to dedicated three minutes of a feature film to setting the public straight.

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