We use clichés everyday, usually without any idea of where or how a certain phrase originated. We blissfully claim to have had “More fun than a barrel of monkeys.” We warn “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” We say “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but “If life gives you Jell-O, please, I’m begging you, don’t make fruit salad.”
One cliché that has always puzzled: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.” How, then, do you ever get to eat your cake? I think the key word is “have.” If you don’t have your cake you can go right ahead and eat it. Assuming, of course that somebody else has your cake — which is now their cake, which, technically speaking, they can eat — and is willing to loan you a slice.
But there’s a gray line here. You now have a slice of “your-their” cake. If you are a strict constructionist, obstructionist, extreme unctionist, or an istologist without portfolio, you can’t eat that slice. Unless it is double chocolate. Then, eat it until the cows come home — but be careful. Cows love cake with their milk and if they find out you ate it all, well, stand back at milking time.
Meanwhile, check out the origins of these favorite clichés.
- Two cats are eating a dead rat. Fluffy says to Snookums “You got the big half. I just got the head. Why don’t you give me some of yours?” Snookums says no. “Come on,” says Fluffy. “At least give me the tail.” Exasperated, Snookums says “How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
- Tommy and Sally are on a date. They are riding double on Tommy’s tired old donkey. On the way home to Sally’s the old donkey keeps stopping. He only moves when Tommy gets off and gives him a kick in the rear. Finally, they get to Sally’s house. Tommy kisses her goodnight and mounts his donkey, but he won’t budge. Tommy calls to his girlfriend “Slap my ass and call me, Sally.”
- You’ve heard someone say “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” But that isn’t the entire saying, which is often truncated by truculent truck drivers, trunk makers, and inhabitants of Truk Island in Micronesia, 500 miles north of Hardtaplesia.
The full quote: “When the going gets tough, the tough make an appointment with a urologist and undergo a prostatectomy and two weeks later they are given a small cup and told to go into a little room and there, with a happy little laugh, they get going.”
Note: when the going gets tough, the weak just whine about it and get up four times a night and are so tired every day that eventually they step blindly into the path of Zarathustra. Sometimes a panda, joyriding in a golf cart.
- Two vampire rabbits are out hunting, but find nothing worth sinking their bloodthirsty teeth into. Suddenly, Peter, the stupid rabbit, spies a vegetable garden. He yanks on a green stalk, pulling up a large, bulbous root.
Bugs, who’s had a year of college (Animal Husbandry dropout), says “You idiot, don’t you know you can’t get blood out of a turnip?”
Says Peter. “You’re forgetting that this is Sweden where turnips are called Swedes, which is actually a nickname for rutabaga.”
Peter sinks his teeth into the Swede but is soon choking and spitting out pieces of rutabaga. Recognizing a teachable moment, Bugs says “Kid, remember. A turnip by any other name is still a turnip. By the way, before I bite your neck, tell me this: how did we end up in Sweden?”
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2016, all rights reserved.