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'You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too' Meaning

by Margaret Minnicks about a year ago in advice

It is impossible to have your cake and eat it too.

Almost everybody loves cake. Some people have their own favorite cake to eat. That is probably the reason so many can understand and relate to the idiom: "You can't have your cake and eat it too."

What is the origin of the expression and what does it mean?

Idiom: Definitions

An idiom is a phrase, expression, or popular saying that has a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. Every country has its own idioms that would not be understood by outsiders. Most idioms have a cultural meaning that is understood only by those living in that particular environment.

Within the English language, there are about twenty-five thousand idioms that people hear or use without knowing their origins.

Origins of Idioms

Origins of idioms date back to centuries. In other words, idioms have been around for a very long time. Most of them are older than the people who use them because they did not become popular in recent times.

Popular Idioms

There are some popular idioms that are used by people every single day. Those who watch Dr. Phil McGraw on television have noticed that he uses from three to five popular idioms during every one of his episodes while speaking to guests on his show.

Meaning of "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too"

This popular idiom dates back to around 1538 when it was found in a letter. It should be easy to understand that it doesn't have to do with a literal cake. That expression means using something up but still having it to use at a later time. It means having to choose between two good things.

The expression literally means you cannot simultaneously eat a piece of cake and still have it. Once you have eaten a piece of cake, you can't eat that same piece a second time. The expression shows that it is impossible to have something both ways. Therefore, you have to decide if you want to eat the cake now or save it for later.

By David Holifield on Unsplash

The idiom uses cake as an example to show people that both ideas are good as a piece of cake. However, the expression can apply to anything. For instance, if you have spent all your money, you can't use that same money a second time. You cannot simultaneously use up something and still keep that something. Once something desirable is gone, it is gone.

Examples of the Idiom

A mother gives her teenage daughter $50 to go shopping at the mall. The daughter quickly spends all the money on clothes. She asks her mother for more money to buy shoes. The mother tells her daughter that she couldn't eat her cake ($50) and have it too.

A father gives his son permission to drive his car. After spending all day driving around, the son complains to his father that there is no gas left in the car for him to go to a party. The father explains to his son that he couldn't eat his cake (drive around all day) and have it too (gas in the car to go to the party).

In both of the examples above, the daughter and son used up what they had and expected to be given more of equal value. However, the parents let them know that it is not possible to have their cake and eat it too. Because they made their first choice, their second choice was off the table.

The moral of the idiom is to think through two good choices and choose the one you want right away knowing that there will be no second choice. After all, "You can't have your cake and eat it too."

Margaret Minnicks
Margaret Minnicks
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Margaret Minnicks

Margaret Minnicks shares articles with readers all over the world. Topics include celebrities, royal family, movies, television, foods, drinks, health issues, and other interesting things. Thanks in advance for TIPS that are sent my way.

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