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Rob attempts to disprove an old adage, and gets a craving for cake

Guess what, kids? You can have your cake and eat it, too. From the time I was a child, I never believed that old adage. I frequently had cake and ate it, and still do, though not quite as frequently.

The adage I'm talking about is evidently widely misunderstood, due to its poor wording. Let's take a look at it this proverb in a little more detail:

"You can't have your cake and eat it too"

As the proverb states, you have in your possession a cake. Logically and linguistically, you can eat this very cake of which you are in possession. In fact, if you are eating cake, then you must already possess it.

Some argue that in order to understand the proverb better, the words "eat" and "have" should be interchanged. Changing the order of the words doesn't help, because, as worded, it still implies possession and consumption cannot occur simultaneously, which is simply not true.

Perhaps the word "have" is to be interpreted as already having had eaten something, which is admittedly valid. However, it leaves too much room open for interpretation, and we should use the present perfect tense "have had", or use an entirely different verb, like "finish":

  1. You can't have had your cake and eat it too.
  2. You can't finish your cake and eat it too.

Even here, though, the first example is probably a better way to go. You can be in a state of finishing cake (i.e. eating your last few bites), but still have possession of it.

So, boys and girls, the next time someone tells you that you can't have your cake and eat it too, tell them that they're wrong and that the proverb, as worded, is a logical fallacy. Get yourself a piece of cake. Point out to your well-meaning mentor that you clearly have cake. Next, begin eating it, thereby demonstrating that possession and consumption of cake can happen simultaneously. Upon completing your cake, suggest to them an alternative way of wording the proverb, perhaps building on the examples provided above.

I am suddenly hungry for cheesecake. I may need to head out to the store, so I can have some (and eat it).

Comments

  1. i agree that the saying is ambiguous, besides being dopey; however i take it to mean "you can't eat your cake and expect to still have it". [Once one has ingested the cake it no longer exists in the state or form of a cake as we know it; therefore the eater of the cake no longer posesses the cake]

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  2. Well, in that case, anyone who eats their cake and still expects to have it needs more help than an old proverb could possibly provide :-)

    I think I was just trying to point out that the saying, as worded, is not logical, and easily disproven. As usual, I probably could have been a little more clear about that.

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