a piece of cake

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

Can I ask at a party "Could I have a piece of cake, please?" or would it sound weird because of its metaphorical sense? Do I have to stick with "slice of cake" then?

Thank you!
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    In your context, there is no danger of confusion with the expression meaning that something is very easy.
    I would be perfectly comfortable with using "a piece of cake" in this context. It's what I would ask, except that I'm not so keen on cake, so I might ask for a piece of that tasty-looking asparagus quiche over there.
    Some people prefer "slice", some prefer "piece".
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Some cakes, such as this chocolate mocha sheet cake*,



    are not served in what I would call slices. For them, I would definitely use "piece."

    _______________________
    *Thanks to The Prolific Oven Bakery and Cafe of north-central California (four locations) for the image.
     
    Last edited:

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    :thumbsup:

    You can call a slice of cake a piece of cake, but you can't call something that's a piece of cake a slice of cake.

    (I'd like to say this was a piece of ancient wisdom passed on to me by my grandfather on his deathbed, but I can't. :))
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    but you can't call something that's a piece of cake a slice of cake.
    That accords with my preference too, but whether that's really correct would depend on how loosely you define "slice".
    Some definitions simply say "portion". Others say "thin and flat". Or you could apply it to that anything that has been sliced.
    Could you say that Egmont's cake has been sliced? I could. Yet I would still not call those pieces slices.
    I think of slicing a loaf of bread, or a brick-shaped cake, or a salami sausage. The result is thin flat pieces, on which the cut (sliced) surfaces are parallel and account for almost the entire surface area if each slice.
    Curiously, one item for which "slice" is more popular than "piece" is pizza, where the cuts are usually not parallel and the large flat surfaces are not the ones that have been cut. Go figure, as they say.
    Google Ngram Viewer
    I'd like to say this was a piece of ancient wisdom ..., but I can't.
    Perhaps because it was a slice of ancient wisdom.:)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Curiously, one item for which "slice" is more popular than "piece" is pizza, where the cuts are usually not parallel and the large flat surfaces are not the ones that have been cut. Go figure, as they say.
    Slices of pizza are the same shape as a slice of a round cake. The cut flat surfaces are the same ones as for the cake.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You're right with regard to a literal piece/slice of cake, but I was referring to the expression in something like 'Don't worry. The exam will be a piece of cake.'

    I tried to keep my slice of wisdom pithy, so didn't spell it all out fully. And perhaps I should have put the second 'piece of cake' in inverted commas.

    I'll get me coat. :D


    Cross-posted.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If there's a hidden joke in there, let me apologize in advance for not getting it, but a piece of pie will do nicely, thank you.
    Google Ngram Viewer
    This shows that people that do use "slice of pie." I suppose some of those hits refer to the loaf-shaped things that are the only things that produce your sort of slices, but many of them are for round pies for which horizontal sizes would be very awkward.
    There are alternate methods for cutting a round cake, but some or all of the pieces have a curved edge.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I always thought it was a slice of pizza because it matched the shape of a slice of pie (and it's sometimes called a pizza pie).
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    This shows that people () do use "slice of pie."
    Of course, I'm not denying that. I'm merely pointing out that they are outnumbered by people who prefer "piece of pie", by a factor of about 3.5, albeit with decreasing trend. Most things called pies are round, aren't they, and therefore the minority that aren't, and that would produce "my sort" of slices, would not account for "piece" being in the majority.
    I always thought it was a slice of pizza because it matched the shape of a slice of pie
    The evidence does not bear that out, because with pizza "slice" is in the majority (by a factor of about 2.7), while with "pie" it's in the minority.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Of course, I'm not denying that. I'm merely pointing out that they are outnumbered by people who prefer "piece of pie", by a factor of about 3.5, albeit with decreasing trend. Most things called pies are round, aren't they, and therefore the minority that aren't, and that would produce "my sort" of slices, would not account for "piece" being in the majority.
    True, but you cannot assume because one form is more popular that many of the people who used "piece of pie" do not agree with me that it's synonymous with "slice of pie".
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    you cannot assume because one form is more popular that many of the people who used "piece of pie" do not agree with me that it's synonymous with "slice of pie".
    I don't follow. Why would I want to assume that? I'm assuming the opposite, namely that people who use the term "piece of pie" are referring to exactly the same thing as what others call "slice of pie".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't follow. Why would I want to assume that? I'm assuming the opposite, namely that people who use the term "piece of pie" are referring to exactly the same thing as what others call "slice of pie".
    I'm saying many of those people say both "piece of pie" and "slice of pie" even though they have written "piece of pie" in their book. You seem to be suggesting that ALL the people that have written "piece of pie" would agree with you that "slice of pie" is somehow wrong.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    You seem to be suggesting that ALL the people that have written "piece of pie" would agree with you that "slice of pie" is somehow wrong.
    I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. Nor is it my position that "slice" is "somehow wrong". It's simply a matter of preference, or what they've been accustomed to, and mine happens to be to say "piece" and not "slice".
    I'm saying many of those people say both "piece of pie" and "slice of pie" even though they have written "piece of pie" in their book
    We routinely treat ngrams as a barometer of general preference. Do you really think their speaking preference will differ significantly from their writing preference? Sounds unlikely. Or maybe you're saying that people who write stuff that gets published (who are after all only a very small subset of the general population) do not reflect well what the rest of the population say (or write). But that's a whole nother can of worms.
     
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