Having your blog and posting to it, too?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/12 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/09/12/4875986.aspx

Yesterday, the question that was asked was:

In Windows Vista, why don’t we see any elevation prompt for non-admin users when UAC is disabled? One example is login as a non-admin, try to change date/time. If UAC is enabled, we see a prompt for entering admin creds, but when UAC is disabled, we just see an “Access denied” dialog instead.

These words are true, the description of the behavior is accurate. The answer is easy enough:

Because UAC controls the elevation experience. No UAC, no prompts, period. It goes back to XP behaviour.

But then someone off the main thread of conversation suggested to me that it was a great example of how one cannot have one's cake and eat it too.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means. :-)

Though the confusion is not entirely surprising, it has been around for a while now -- a common phrase dating back nearly over 450 years to talk about "having one's cake and eating it too".

Of course in modern English, the phrase has lost most of its meaning, since the phrase "have some cake" and really most similar uses of the term have in this context are synonymous with eating the cake.

The original intent was to distinguish between possession and consumption -- you can certainly possess/hold on to that piece of cake, or you can eat/consume it, but you cannot have it both ways.

Now in a way one could extend this to the above case -- you can't turn off a functionality but then want one of the features that the functionality provides. But the original quote did seem more targeted to me -- it never felt to me like a generic theory that would apply to all logical contradictions like these.

But perhaps I am mistaken on this point.

Thoughts, anyone? :-)


This post brought to you by (U+3292, a.k.a. CIRCLED IDEOGRAPH HAVE)

josh on 12 Sep 2007 3:46 AM:

Hm, I thought it was originally "eating one's cake and having it too," which is a somewhat more difficult sequence.  Well, assuming you consider the ands to suggest a sequence.

But I don't think I've ever observed someone thinking that having == eating in this context.  In fact, I don't think that meaning of "have" has ever met the expression in my brain before and I think it's kind of perversely elegant.  It's like "going for a walk while taking a stroll"...  an interesting sort of thing to imagine.

Anyway, IMO it's a suitable expression for any case of "performing action which eliminates X and still having X."  It lacks impact when the action is "disable X," but I think it works if you look at the end user goals instead of what they have to do to get there.

Jan Kučera on 12 Sep 2007 6:00 AM:

That's like taking a shower, isn't it? ;-)

You actually don't take it under your arm and walk away...

It took me a little time to understand what consequences arises from apprehending 'having' as 'eating' in this phrase, although it does not make much sense without it...

And having a breakfast is I think quite good example of similar meaning.

Just for case you're interested, in Czech we do use the verb "give myself" in similar (eatage :-D) alternate meaning, of course being translated differently...well..I actually don't know how.

One of our very popular films (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074354/releaseinfo) used this phrase in its title (the verb is 'dát si'). Actually none of the English names translated the verb itself. I think the German one kind of get it, um.. just a little bit. :-)

So thank you for a good lection! :)

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Sep 2007 11:04 AM:

Well, you do have to clean under your arms and you shrivel up like a prune if you don't walk away eventually. :-)

But yep, you see the confusion that was added as the meaning changed over time....

Mikkin on 12 Sep 2007 7:32 PM:

I have never known a native english speaker of any age to be confused by this aphorism. I often use it in explaining the "information wants to be free" concept by contrast.

But then I live in LA where we neither have our lunch nor eat it either, we DO lunch.

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Sep 2007 7:59 PM:

I have never felt the proper intimate connection with my lunch to quite take the LA approach here.... :-)

I suspect you might just know smarter people than me.

Michael Dunn_ on 13 Sep 2007 1:39 AM:

I've never groked the desire to have a cake and not eat it. What's the point? :)

Michael S. Kaplan on 13 Sep 2007 2:33 AM:

A much point as having your blog and not posting to it, too. :-)

Michael S. Kaplan on 13 Sep 2007 5:49 PM:

Interestingly, in modern terms it seems like an oxymoron -- you must have your cake if you want to be able to eat it, so the 'have your cake and eat it too' sounds like a natural step by step process.

Which is why the phrase confuses ever more people!

Mikkin on 14 Sep 2007 11:43 AM:

But you can halve your cake and eat it too. It is the standard solution for the dilemma of the birthday child who, wanting to keep decorations on the cake, first discovers that you can't have your cake and eat it too. One of life's little lessons. Usually the whole cake ends up being eaten shortly thereafter without regrets. Another of life's little lessons.

John Cowan on 19 Sep 2007 5:55 PM:

Indeed, "eat one's cake and have it too" is the original, un-paradoxical version, where "have" = "keep".

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