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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:39 pm

• cakewalk •

Pronunciation: kayk-wawk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Something exceptionally easy to accomplish: selling cosmetics is a cakewalk for her. 2. A 19th-century strutting contest held among African Americans in the southern US, in which the contestant who walked with the fanciest steps won a cake.

Notes: The compound cakewalk came from the name of the strutting contest mentioned in the second definition above. Though the original cakewalks were no cakewalk, today's Good Word is also the origin of the expression "a piece of cake", in the sense of something that is very easy to accomplish. A cakewalker is someone who prances or struts when they walk.

In Play: Today's Good Word refers to things that are a piece of cake, exceptionally easy: "Lester found that running the company was more like herding cats and not at all the cakewalk he had expected." Anything that is exceptionally easy may be a cakewalk: "Marcia, you read all the time! Winning the spelling bee will be a cakewalk for you."

Word History: Cake was borrowed from the Vikings during their raids along the northern coasts of England in the 11th century. It was the Old Norse correlate of Modern Swedish kaka "cake, cookie, loaf". (Apparently Viking cakes were not as tasty as those we bake today.) Walk comes from the root meaning "roll", which also underlies German Welle "wave" and walzen "to roll". You can see it in the name of our swirly dance, the waltz. (Coming up with interesting words like today's is a cakewalk for the Pale Writer of our Agora, John Hall.)
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Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:32 am

Not all literal cakewalks stress strutting or fancy walking. When I was a boy we had a game in which the contestants walked around in a circle. When the music stopped, the person nearest the cake got it as a prize.

There are many slang words I do not appreciate, but "piece of cake" is an apt expression and I predict a long life for it.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:26 pm

Yes, I was thinking of that as well.
It was often found in our Church bazaars and
events of that nature. Anyone could play, most
often senior ladies could found on that game.
Only skill was sitting down when music stopped.
I remember a chair being eliminated each round
as well. Chairs were in a circle, and last one standing
with no chairs available got the cake.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:21 pm

I've seen both types of cakewalk described above. Another version is to walk a circle with numbered spaces. When the music stops, a number is drawn, and that person gets the cake or other prize. It's often used as a small fund raiser, charging anywhere from a dime to a dollar per walk.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:53 pm

Forgotten about that type: I've seen that as well.
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