My kids and I were joking the other day about this common saying. A day later, someone used it with reference to something I had written.
I find this idiomatic proverb so totally frustrating and backward. In common usage, to have one’s cake and to want to eat it is regarded as a bad thing. We say something like this: “Edward ascribes to this position, wanting to have his cake and eat it, too.”
Readers or hearers of such a statement chuckle with derision at poor Edward. He is, after all, a fool for wanting to go beyond mere possession of cake to actually eating it.
In my experience, however, possession of cake is good for only one thing. I have not yet been to a birthday party where someone has handed out cake, whereupon all recipients of cake slices did then dispose of the cake without eating it.
Isn’t eating the cake the only thing that possession of cake is good for? Why else would anyone be happy to merely have cake?
I have not yet met the person who stands forkless with a piece of cake smiling with delight, content with mere cake-possession.
In fact, we should say something like this: “Edward ascribes to this position, wanting to have his cake and eat it, too.” Readers and hearers of this should regard Edward as utterly rational. He wins the day! Further, they should regard as a fool anyone who disagrees with Edward, since they deem the possession of cake as good in itself.
Just to say that I hope I will always count myself among those who want to have cake and eat it, too. If I don’t want to eat the cake, I will simply refuse its possession, as I did at my nephew’s birthday party at which I had eaten too much pulled pork.
Why do we not regard the person as mad who delights in possessing cake without going beyond to eating?