butter their toast

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david19999

New Member
Chinese
Here is a sentence: It's just that smart people are prone to look into matters to see how they might go about buttering their toast. Then they butter their toast. I am wondering what the phrase means. Does it mean improving their lives?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think it actually means buttering their toast. It is an example of how "smart people" do things: they think about how to do it before they do it. They even do that with simple things like buttering toast.
     

    david19999

    New Member
    Chinese
    I think it actually means buttering their toast. It is an example of how "smart people" do things: they think about how to do it before they do it. They even do that with simple things like buttering toast.
    Do you mean we simply take it literally and that the speaker is just being humorous?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Yes, I mean to take it literally. But I don't think the speaker is being humorous.

    The sentence starts with "It's just that...", so this is the continuation of an idea written before this sentence. This sentence does not have the entire idea in it. What was written before this?

    Also, where did you see this sentence? What was the source? We always ask that.

    Also, hello! Welcome to the forum, David19999!
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I understood "buttering toast" to refer to making their lives more comfortable or prosperous. Butter is sometimes a symbol of small luxuries or a comfortable life. Goebbels said that we want to buy weapons not butter - weapons will make us strong but butter will just make us fat. Then there is a proverb "Fine words butter no parsnips". 'Fine words butter no parsnips' - the meaning and origin of this phrase Dry bread is a symbol of poverty or punishment. Buttered toast is better than dry toast!
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think it means that smart people make choices that go to advance their career, or benefit them as individuals. I see "buttering their toast" as a metaphor for "improving their situation" (in a material way). If you already have toast, you don't lack the basics of life, so putting butter on it is simply improving a good that you already possess.
     
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