Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cakes and Buds

Driving home I was wondering what to post on Bytes. Contrary to what you might think, I don’t have a giant stockpile of items, although there are some longer items for future posting as a result of brief items having kept growing during writing. 

It was then that I received a text message from Byter Gabrielle: 

“I have a question I hope you can answer. I have heard many people use the term “he wants his cake and eat it too”. Of course I would want to eat the cake, who wouldn’t? Nip it in the bud is another one." 

Good point, Gabrielle – what is wrong with wanting to eat your cake once you have it. What else are you going to do with it? But to understand the proverb, you must go back in time and see how it has changed in the present. 

Some comments: 
  • The proverb was first recorded in 1546 by John Heywood in his “A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of All the Proverbs in the English Tongue.” Heywood (no relation to Heywood Jablome, the subject of previous Bytes items) recorded the proverb as “Would you both eat your cake and eat your cake?” 
  • John Davies in 1611 wrote “A man cannot eat his cake and have it still.” 
  • The phrase, as above, means “Do you both want to eat your cake and still have it afterwards? You can’t have both.” 
  • The clauses "eating one’s cake" and "having it too" became reversed in 1749, so that the proverb commonly became “have one’s cake and eat it too.” 
  • The meaning today remains the same, a modern equivalent being “you can’t have it both ways”. 
  • The pic above is of a birthday cake made by Byter Jess for my No 2 son Elliot. Jess does it as a sideline nad has made amazingly decorated cakes that are works of art. When it comes to Jess’s cakes, I do want to have them and eat them too. Anyone in Sydney who wants to engage Jess to make a cake that will be a unique centrepiece, drop me a line or post a comment. I will then get back to you. 
  • By the way moment: 
One Theodore J. Kaczynski (1942 - ) learned from his mother at an early age that the original proverb was eat/have, not have/eat. He used the eat/have terminology in an anarchist manifesto, which assisted the FBI to identify him as the Unabomber who, between 1978 and 1995 engaged in a US nation-wide bombing campaign that killed 3 and injured 23. 

As far as “nip in the bud” is concerned: 
  • The phrase comes from horticulture, referring to removal of buds from plants so as to stop further growth whilst the plant is still young. This then causes the plant to grow in other ways eg to become bushy. It has been extended to stopping or restricting development at an early or young state. 
  • The early use of the phrase used the word “bloom” rather than “bud”. 
  • In 1595 Henry Chettle's romance Piers Plainnes Seaven Yeres Prentiship contained the sentence "Extinguish these fond loues with minds labour, and nip thy affections in the bloome, that they may neuer bee of power to budde." 
  • The bud version first appears in 1607, in Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy of manners Woman Hater: "Yet I can frowne and nip a passion Euen in the bud." 
  • By the way moment: 
US author, poet, humorist and wit Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was once challenged to use “horticulture” in a sentence. 

She replied “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think.”

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