Monday, December 29, 2014

Icing on the cake

Hey, you know my posts that are chock full of useful information and/or intellectual thoughts? Yeah, this isn't one of those. 

My friend was recently relaying the details of her bad day to me. The bad day started with a broken alarm, as they do, followed by a missed bus, the barista was rude to her when she bought a coffee, then something about a bank mishap or something like that. She ended the tale by saying: "and then the icing on the cake was when I went to make dinner and the meat I had bought smelled funny. It was late and...." I'm actually not sure where the story went from there because I had completely veered off on the whole "icing on the cake" thing. 

You see, I kind of always thought icing on the cake was a positive thing: something good in addition to something else good. Let me illustrate: 

Cake = Good 
Icing = Real Good 

So you can understand my confusion when this phrase was used with a negative connotation.

I think that we should confirm the tone and meaning of this phrase now before we all continue to use and misuse it. As it exists, there is just too much room for confusion. 

Negative: Some people use it in a negative sense to mean the straw that broke the camel's back. Picture someone throwing their hands up in frustration, "oh, that is just the icing on the cake" as in, "oh this couldn't have possibly gotten worse and then it did...." But that's a terrible thing to say since adding icing to anything makes it better... believe me, I've tried.

Positive: Is it supposed to mean something good in addition to something really good? I believe that is what most people mean when they say it. However, that is not my literal translation. I have heard people use it to say something was going really well and then something else good happened. I can support this as the universal meaning, although for me, the icing is the really good thing and the cake is the nice addition. When someone uses this positive version, my takeaway is: something really good added to something that is just good. That is what I am thinking, despite knowing it might not be 100% accurate. This is why I think we need to all agree on what it means.

Super Positive: Personally, I think the icing is the best part, the main event. I can have icing without cake, but not the other way around. Without it I find cake to be a bit of a disappointment. Spoonfuls of icing with no cake in sight, no problem. Cake without icing, on the other hand... disappointing, and I think they actually call that muffins.

Between you and me, I think cake can also be disappointing with too little icing... so as we iron this whole thing out, we also might want to specify exactly how much icing we're talking about, cause if it's too little in proportion to the cake, that would be a bit of a downer and therefore revert back to that negative connotation. 

I just need clarity here. 

And hey, while we're clarifying, let's also give some gravitas to gravy. Adding gravy to things makes those things better. I have heard people refer to something good being added to something already good as "gravy." I kind of get it, assuming they are referring to how once you're adding gravy you can just add a lot since adding more gravy is better. But if you are phrasing it as something that didn't need to be added but was, that shouldn't be the universal meaning because most times when gravy is there, it's there for a reason. You need the gravy. Some dry-a$$ turkey or beef absolutely needs the gravy. It's not an optional addition or a pleasant surprise. It's a vital necessity. Plus, in the case of adding gravy, it's a nice thing to have, but you don't necessarily want it on its own.

Sorry but I take my food too seriously to throw these phrases around willy nilly. 

We all need to have a firmer grasp on the true definitions before we proceed. I think we should probably decide now which meanings we are going to go with in order to avoid further confusion. Otherwise we are left hearing a story of a bad day and assuming it ended well because there was cake, but in actuality she gave her family food poisoning.

I love cake