Elle voudrait avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.
el voo-dray aa-vwaar luh BURR ay laar-ZHAH dew burr. Click below to hear this.
She would like to have her cake and eat it too.
Children tend to be very literal-minded. It took me a long time to understand this expression in English. After all, how can you eat your cake if you don’t have it? Eventually I realized that have in this case was a synonym for keep (which, of course, made little sense to me either: what is cake for, if not to eat?).
It’s the same in French, only it seems that butter is more basic and more essential to the culture of French-speakers than cake. Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre means to have the butter and the butter money. No, not money made of butter (we are not talkiing about a barter economy here!), but the money to buy the butter with.
I am sure we all wish otherwise at times, but once the money is spent, it’s gone. You are left with whatever you spent it for, so it had better be good.
As in English, today’s expression applies to people who are always longing to possess more. But more than that, it refers to people who can’t make up their minds, who want to have things two ways, who say one thing but act differently. It’s a form of dishonesty, really, of not being true to oneself.
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