“Sweet” English expressions
A piece of cake, (as) easy as pie, it takes the biscuit
In a previous post we were discussing the meaning of the English phrase “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too)” and we were already anticipating more posts explaining English idioms and expressions related to desserts.
As it turns out, there’s quite a few. You’ve likely heard that when something is very easy to do, in English people say it’s “a piece of cake” or even “as easy as pie”. Let’s take the following example:
Mum: Mark, how did your exam go?
Mark: The questions were so simple, it was a piece of cake / as easy as pie.
Why do people say it? Likely because eating a piece of a delicious dessert requires no effort, motivation or skill on our part. Although making them can be quite hard and time-consuming, eating them is something everybody enjoys.
On the other hand, some expressions are focused more on how hard it is to actually get the cake you want to eat. Contrary to what Maria Antoinette1 might have thought, eating cake has never been something people did every day, rather, it was something they reserved for special occasions only. That is why, since the days of Ancient Greece, people have associated cakes with prizes or a symbolic victory of some kind.
This is the origin of saying something “takes the cake” or “takes the biscuit”. This means that it stands out, it’s so different that it wins a figurative prize. With this meaning, these two phrases have been used either to say that something is outstandingly good or outstandingly bad. It will only be clear from the context if the people saying it are just sarcastic or they truly want to congratulate somebody on their accomplishment. Take the following examples:
- I’ve met a lot of irresponsible people, but you really take the cake.
- I’ve seen other people skilled at Photoshop, but he really takes the cake.
And in Spanish? Do you know any phrases related to the ones we’ve discussed in this post or others that refer to desserts? We’d love you to tell us in the comments below.