THE ALLEGED (BUT DOUBTFUL) ORIGIN:
“Let them eat cake.” (“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”)
Attributed to Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)
Queen of France from 1774 to 1792; beheaded in 1793 in the wake of the French Revolution
This classic expression of disdain for the common people has traditionally been attributed to Marie Antoinette. She supposedly said it when she was told that most French people were do poor they were unable to buy bread to eat. Many scholars now doubt that she actually said it. Moreover, if she did say the line as traditionally given in French — “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” — it has long been mistranslated and possibly misunderstood. In English, those words actually mean “Let them eat brioche,” referring to a bakery product that is not what we usually think of as a “cake.” Brioche is a light, fluffy pastry with a flaky crust. As explained by the excellent Phrase Finder site, French law in Marie Antoinette’s time required bakers to sell fancier products like brioche at the same price as a common loaf of bread, to prevent them from using too much of the limited flour supplies to make products that would typically be more profitable to the bakery but unaffordable to poor French families. Thus, “Let them eat brioche” could have been an expression of compassion rather than disdain, suggesting that poor people should have access to a product they would have been unable to afford without price controls.
THE POLITICAL PEAS VERSION:
“While chastising the Republicans for not agreeing to a debt ceiling deal that would include his suggestions to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits, President Obama said Congressional members needed to do their work, reach a deal and just ‘eat their peas.’...While no one knows for sure if Marie Antoinette ever really said, ‘Let them eat cake,’ we do know the elite in France all those years ago in the 1700s were clueless to the cries of people who couldn't afford bread much less the cake they had been admonished to eat. It appears that in 2011 in the United States of America, we can now replace that admonition with our own: ‘Let them eat their peas.’”
THE POLITICAL CORN (FLAKE) VERSION:
“Now, once again the reincarnated Marie Antoinette Michele Bachmann is screaming from the floor of the House of Representatives and from Iowa televisions ‘I will not raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances. Let them eat corn!’ If the GOP once again drive the country and the world into a financial ditch can martial law and a fascist dictatorship in the United States be far behind?”
POLITICALLY INCORRECT VARIATION #1:
POLITICALLY INCORRECT VARIATION #2:
“I saw this video once, yeah, they was all dressed up like Marie Antoinette. Well, they wore the wigs. Let Them Eat Cock it was called.”
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