Talk:You can't have your cake and eat it

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This page is imprecise and cumbersome and should either be ammended or deleted.--Tappyea 23:10, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)

  • Agreed. It's an imprecise and cumbersome phrase to begin with... lots of people use it without knowing exactly what it means or why. Also, removed last addition by Dysprosia -- no offense; just no particular reason to add that example over many others in common use. (I must say the POV bit at the end is what made me think to remove it; if you really want it in the article, maybe shorten that par. to 1 NPOV sentence.) +sj+ 08:09, 2004 Mar 8 (UTC)
I don't know how many people exactly still believe that bisexuals are really just "gay-and-denying-it" or "het-and-denying it", but I think that many nowadays do not hold such ideas. Leave the paragraph in or no, I just remember hearing the phrase used in connections with criticisms of bisexuality and thought it pertinent to comment Dysprosia 08:13, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Fair enough. If there's a concise way to say this, without taking up as much space as the entire rest of the article, it would certainly be pertinent to include; I have heard the same usage more than once. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sj (talkcontribs) 13:57, 9 March 2004
I'll have another stab at it a little later :) Dysprosia 04:30, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Easier to understand if reversed[edit]

The phrase is easier to understand if it is reversed: to eat your cake, and have it too. One cannot possess the piece of cake if one has already eaten it. Patronizing and probably inaccurate. Having something can quite simply mean eating something, as in "I had eggs for breakfast". The latter phrase does not mean that the speaker was in possession of the eggs for the duration of the breakfast, though that is of course implied, but that the eggs were part of the meal. (This is speculation, but I wager that this use derives from the imperative "have some" used as polite request, with the implication that anything so "had" is consumed: "here, have some eggs"). Thus, "to have your cake and eat it too" could simply be a stacking of synonyms, and of course one cannot eat the cake after already having had it in this sense. JRM 01:05, 2004 Dec 11 (UTC)

The explanation derided above is the only way the phrase makes sense to me. It means that one cannot have both the pleasure of possessing something and the pleasure of consuming it simultaneously. --Clement Cherlin 09:10, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I agree. The above explanation (about reversing the phrase) makes sense to me, whereas the one currently present on the page seems really iffy. I certainly understand what the writer is saying, but it still doesn't seem like the way a phrase would actually originate. Sources? TomTheHand 21:07, Apr 12, 2005 (UTC)
Well, I thought it was a wonderful fake etymology and I was quite proud of my original research. But, to coin another colorful phrase, I have to eat crow. From [1]:

YOU CAN'T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO - "Once you've eaten your cake, this familiar proverb reminds us, you cannot cry as a child would about not having your cake anymore. The saying in its earliest form read, 'Wolde you bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?' which appeared in John Heywood's 'A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue' (1546).?" "You can't eat your cake and have your cake" appeared in John Ray's 'A collection of English Proverbs' (1670). The modern version, 'We cannot have our cake and eat it too,' was recorded in a document (1812) relating to the war of 1812. From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993). "You can't have your cake and eat it too -- One can't use something up and still have it to enjoy. This proverb was recorded in the book of proverbs by John Heywood in 1546, and is first attested in the United States in the 1742 'Colonial Records of Georgia' in 'Original Papers, 1735-1752.' The adage is found in varying forms: You can't eat your cake and have it too. You can't have everything and eat it too; Eat your cake and have the crumbs in bed with you, etc. ..." From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman.

My clever explanations notwithstanding, the thing simply ended up reversed, which is common enough. It's plausible enough to defend that the synonymous meaning of "having" is what influenced/allowed this, but that's of no relevance to the actual etymology. Originally, the phrase was "eat your cake and have it too": to want to still have the cake in hand after eating it.
I've changed the article to reflect this and I've included the site mentioned above as a source, though some more nicer ones would be preferred—in particular, if we can actually verify this quote with the original dictionaries (or something equally suitable) we could mention that directly. Thanks for your input. JRM 21:59, 2005 Apr 12 (UTC)
"Understandability" isn't the primary concern here. The primary concern is how the phrase is most often used. ask123 (talk) 14:34, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Your cake is gone once you eat it[edit]

Better modern translation. Rugz (talk) 17:17, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Your cake, I eated it! —Preceding unsigned comment added by TigerWolf (talkcontribs) 23:34, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

How about... Halve your cake and eat the two? Meaning you promised to share and reneged. Lsimms (talk) 00:06, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

How about "To huff your cake and eat it too", meaning you can't both inhale your cake and eat it. - (talk) 21:54, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Well, how about "You can't heave your cake and eat it too" where "heave" means throw, not vomit? If this is a rock cake, then throwing it as a weapon might be said to be giving your enemy "his just desserts". Myles325a (talk) 01:56, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

have one's cake and eat it too[edit]

It does not matter which way you say it. Have your cake and eat it too has the same meaning as eat your cake and have it too. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Footdr (talkcontribs) 08:09, 9 April 2006

I was thinking the same thing the entire time I was reading the article. Either way you order it, the phrase is about wanting to have two states simultaneously which are mutually exclusive. The states are (eating your cake) and (having your cake around). Neither form is more "correct" than the other, except in terms of reflecting the ordering of the original phrase. And the original form does nothing to rid itself of George Carlin's "critique" because both phrases mean exactly the same thing. Onlynone 20:22, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
See previous discussion concerning etymology. "To have" and "to eat" were not always synonymous, just as "to have," "to bed," "to screw," "to lay," "to bone," "to know," "to know in a biblical sense," etc. were not always synonymous. --The Centipede 23:01, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
The first two posted viewpoints do not depend on anything being synonymous. If I want to have my cake (meaning, possess it) then if I eat it, I can no longer possess the cake. So the saying makes sense as "have your cake and eat it too." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Squashfactory (talkcontribs) 21:19, 31 August 2007
Exactly, I don't know why people keep talking about the fact that 'to have' can also mean 'to eat'. That has nothing to do with this discussion. Neither form of this expression ("to have your cake and eat it too" and "to eat your cake and have it too") use 'to have' as meaning 'to eat'. Neither form even implies this meaning, and frankly I had never noticed it before reading it in this discussion here. Onlynone 18:18, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Common English usage treats the "and" as catering for a sequence of actions. So if Johnny does A and B, it is understood that A was done before B. Remember this phrase is handed down from a culture of usage, not one of technical analysis. So if today we say that Johnny could have done B before A, well, 400 years ago, wherefrom the phrase comes, it was not so. The order does matter. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:39, 16 September 2007 (UTC)
I admit to this analysis, in that "I did A and B" usually means "I did A and then I did B" (usually, but not always). Looking at the phrase "You can't have your cake and eat it too" through this lens does make it seem incorrect. I can have my cake, "Here's my cake sitting on the table"; and then I can eat it "I'm eating the cake that I just had lying around". In this way I had my cake and ate it too. However, this chronological interpretation of "and" isn't universal, and based on the context I believe that most people recognize when you mean for both A and B to happen at the same time (as in this case) as opposed to one after the other. Onlynone 18:18, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
The use of the word "too" at the end makes the statement correct. "Too" also avoids the implied ordering of events that some have mentioned in regards to "and". The article should be corrected and have the references removed that the statement isn't correct. Theosis4u (talk) 07:01, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

If I'm eating cake, I'm having cake. As in: What are you eating for dessert? I'm having cake. To me it would make more sense if it was "Ate a cake and still have it", "ate" meaning it's already in my stomach. "Have one's cake and eat it too" sounds more like step-by-step instructions: I'll have the cake and proceed to eat it. Simply put, IF I HAVE CAKE I WILL EAT IT. Jigen III (talk) 06:57, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Linguistic and semantic arguments aren't really relavent here. However, how the phrase is most commonly used is. If one usage is more common than the other, then it should be primary in this article. If neither is more common (i.e. both forms are used approx. equally), then both should get equal mention. It's as simple as that. ask123 (talk) 14:33, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Well I suppose technically, you could eat your cake and have it too, but it will look much different... and smell bad. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:40, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Denotes a level of One's Greed or Frustration.[edit]

Cake is perishable, so if you have your cake, rejoice. Eat your cake, leaves nothing.

If, it isn’t gone already? Should someone else find it!

While the fantasy sounds good, it is fleeting.

But if you come close, remember; “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

AmbiguousOne (talk) 21:59, 1 October 2008 (UTC)The Baker (Rolling in Dough)

Trivia section[edit]

This phrase is too common for the references to it in popular culture to be noteworthy. There are literally thousands of examples of the phrase in wider culture. Thus, it's inadvisable to have an "In popular culture" (aka "Trivia") section. If no one has any objections, I will delete it in a few days. ask123 (talk) 14:30, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Have your cake and eat it (too)[edit]

This is the most common way of expressing this in Australia. It also seems popular overseas. Which countries use "Have one's cake and eat it too" as opposed to the Australian version? I'd never heard it used with 'one' before. Ozdaren (talk) 09:20, 8 February 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. It should be changed. Misodoctakleidist (talk) 12:14, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

origins - definitely earlier recordings than Heywood.[edit]

the article details the proverb's earliest finding as Heywood, in 1546. Whilst it may well be found in this Dialogue, the reference to the OED is misleading, as it states the earliest recording by Heywood as 1562 in his Prov. & Epigr.

Even with this, it is most certainly not the earliest recorded form of the proverb: it appears in a letter from 14 March 1538 from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell: 'a man can not have his cake and eate his cake'. It appears as a complaint about his shortness of money, having apparently spent too much of previously monastic land.

This can be found in the "Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII" vol. 13, part 1. ref. 504 - available at British History Online

The French "common slang" version[edit]

What is it? The article shouldn't be so demure. Imagine Reason (talk) 12:48, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

I have never heard the version with the cream shopkeeper's smile. The most common version mentions her butt.-- (talk) 14:28, 1 December 2016 (UTC)

The translation section[edit]

Greek: Και την πίτα ολόκληρη και τον σκύλο χορτάτο - you want the pie whole and the dog full.

Is perhaps a direct translation, word for word, but when said "την πίτα ολόκληρη" it is referring to "the entire pita" not "the pie whole". MachinistJim (talk) 03:53, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

Slavic proverbs may have been misunderstood[edit]

Do not think Bulgarian: И вълкът сит, и агнето цяло – Both the wolf is full, and the lamb is whole. and Czech: Aby se vlk nažral a koza zůstala celá – The wolf is full and the goat stayed whole. refer to the same phenomenon. Are these really used in the same negative context? I think those phrases, common inSlavic and Slavic influenced languages, are used in a positive context, i.e. when this state has been achieved: the wolf has been fed and yet the sheep are alive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:48, 26 February 2013 (UTC)

Not sure about the other slavic languages, but the Russian version (И волки сыты, и овцы целы – The wolves are full, and the lambs are whole.) most definitely has the exact opposite meaning. It is used when some seemingly contradictory things end up existing together. Deleting this example from the text. Vinney (talk) 06:10, 3 December 2014 (UTC)

Similar with Polish proverb: "wilk syty i owca cała". Regardless of a country, "wolf satisfied and sheep intact" means that there is a solution when it IS POSSIBLE to match two opposite features. The English proverb with the cake as the object means that it is NOT possible at all to match two contradictory features. In my opinion, most Slavic equivalents in this section should be deleted. I will not do this by myself, hoping that the relevant wikipedians will do it on behalf of their compatriots. The Polish equivalent seems to be correct, although it is just a direct translation from English, I suppose. --JPFen (talk) 16:49, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Agreed. I'm deleting Czech which is closer to "keeping the letter of a rule without keeping its spirit". Example: a father lets his teenage son attend some party with the proviso that the latter mustn't drink beer - so the latter gets plastered with wine instead. "The wolf is full" (promise to father was kept) but "the goat stayed whole" (inebriation was achieved). --Droigheann (talk) 18:59, 12 September 2015 (UTC)

original research[edit]

This article needs to be completely rewritten according to reliable sources, for example this, and this, and this. All personal opinions, prescriptivist nonsense, and other incorrect claims such as the following should be removed from an encyclopedia article:

  • "...incorrectly quoted English idiomatic proverb or figure of speech. The correct and thus logical version..." (the currently used form of a proverb is a proverb - it is not a "quote of an earlier version")
  • "One can be in possession of one's cake, but is not allowed to eat it." ("allowed" is nonsense)

The article should also be moved to Have your cake and eat it too or You can't have your cake and eat it too, which are correct and actually used (and most common) forms of this proverb. The less common forms with "his/her" etc. are implied, but the current article title is almost never used --Espoo (talk) 11:18, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Using Google Ngram Viewer as proof that a particular version of the phrase is older seems like OR in the best case, but most likely just a misuse of the service. jej1997 (talk) 09:10, 5 January 2017 (UTC)


It's not Economics, except in the sense that everything is economics. The simple English (but not necessarily simple English) concept is trade-off. I formatted X's comments correctly, but then replaced it with the correct link to trade-off. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 20:47, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

If the entry is specifically dedicated to the relationship between scarcity and choice...then the entry has to do with opportunity cost. If you don't know about opportunity cost...then you don't know the first thing about economics. Given that you clearly don't know about opportunity's painfully obvious that you don't know the first thing about economics. Therefore, your contributions in areas concerning economics are so unhelpful that they are borderline vandalism. Just because your edits are in "good faith" does in no way, shape or form diminish their destructive impact. So please, if you're unwilling to make the effort to learn about economics, then stop editing things that have to do with economics. --Xerographica (talk) 21:33, 26 December 2012 (UTC)
Hmmm. Given that you clearly don't understand the (claimed to be economic) term trade-off, and noting, generally, that if C is more closely related to B than to A, and if C is referenced in B, it should not be referenced in A, this should be gone. I won't revert if you add it again, but I will tag as {{irrelevant}}. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:42, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

"Argument is only valid when the cake is not expired?"[edit]

I don't understand why the argument is invalid when the cake in question is expired. If I can't have a fresh piece of cake and eat it, too, then it stands to reason that I can't have an expired piece of cake and eat it, too.

++++++++++===============+++++++++++ I grew up hearing some common colloquialisms but never having a proper understanding of them as I had no one to explain them to me. I was left to fend more for myself in interpreting what I was hearing. SO,this is ONLY my thoughts and not based on any historical precedent. Having my cake and eating it too was something that I have almost never actually associated with cake, nor for that matter, with anything perishable. In fact, to actually do both, I've assumed the cake is a "type" and really only a reference to that which is clearly NOT cake. That could very easily be manna or money. The logical conclusion then (for me anyway) is that if you have both the cake AND the eating of it and make a declarative statement that "I AM going to have my cake and eat it too," you are essentially saying you are going to have an endless supply of something. You have a money tree, a cake factory, quail appearing out of rocks, etc. I look at it much more as a statement of optimism in that I'm going to experience a surplus of something rather than a negative that I can't have something. I realize, again, that this has NOTHING to do with the original meaning. Rather, it is the optimist's reply to it. (talk) 19:38, 1 January 2015 (UTC)Scott


I had added an image of a cake to give visual aid to the article. Then someone reverted it. Why is an image accompanying an article not necessary? Qwertyxp2000 (talk | contribs) 23:08, 5 January 2016 (UTC)

Following our policy of assuming good faith, I will assume that you are serious in asking this question, and not trolling.
The answer is: Because a picture of a cake does not illustrate the concept of "you can't have your cake and eat it". It just illustrates a cake. We also don't have (and shouldn't have) a picture of the Devil in Devil's Advocate or a picture of a ring (jewelry) in the article ring (mathematics). The cake and the ring are completely notional. --Macrakis (talk) 23:29, 5 January 2016 (UTC)
Good point. Okay, that is fine. Qwertyxp2000 (talk | contribs) 05:23, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

The "proper" order[edit]

I am sympathetic to whomever changed the opening sentence to “You can't eat your cake and KEEP it”. I often use the phrase “you can’t eat your cake and have it too” hoping, (usually in vain) that someone will notice I’m not using the more common expression. I think the phrase you inserted in the phrase I use make much more sense. However, Wikipedia tends to be more descriptive than prescriptive, so we report what people say, even if it is incorrect. The phrases become an idiomatic phrase in such phrases often turn into something that doesn’t make literal sense but people tend to know what they mean. I wish I could convince people to use the correct expression but I know I’m fighting a losing battle. If I and others were to win that battle we could change the article to reflect the common usage but until such time we should reflect the common usage. The article does note the more sensible usage but it is not the most common usage so it is not appropriate to change the opening sentence which should match the title which should match the common usage.--S Philbrick(Talk) 23:30, 22 February 2016 (UTC)