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The meaning and origin of the expression: You can't have your cake and eat it

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You can't have your cake and eat it

What's the meaning of the phrase 'You can't have your cake and eat it'?

You can't have two desirable but contradictory options - you have to choose.

What's the origin of the phrase 'You can't have your cake and eat it'?

You can't have your cake and eat itThis proverbial saying is first found in John Heywood's 1546 glossary A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the englishe tongue:

Wolde ye bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?

The meaning of many mediaeval proverbs isn't clear - they depend on context and a knowledge of the use of language that is now difficult to decipher. However, 'you can't have your cake and eat it too' is unambiguous and meant the same to the Tudor court where it originated as it does to us.

Those living in the UK and of a certain age may remember the BBC radio show My Word, in which the comedy scriptwriters Frank Muir and Denis Norden were asked to make up stories about popular phrases. If memory server it was Frank Muir who told a tale of an eskimo paddling his canoe in the icy sea who decided to light a stove to keep warm. The canoe caught fire and sank, leading to the punch line "You can't have your kayak and heat it too".

See also: the List of Proverbs.

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