Prompted by the answers to my EL&U question, Pinpointing its origins is not a “piece of cake”, I endeavoured to find out who was right. Did the idiom begin life in the US, in a poem written by Ogden Nash, or was it coined by the British RAF around 1938-1940?
For over two hours I tried to find the precise poem where Ogden Nash allegedly wrote the line
Her picture's in the papers now,
And life's a piece of cake
It should be in his 1935 book, The Primrose Path, the OED and Phrase Finder claim it is the first time the idiom, a piece of cake, appeared in print.
Well, you would think it would be easy as pie to unearth the doggerel in its entirety. We are, after all, on the Internet but you would be sorely mistaken. Try as I did, I did not find the line that preceded or followed the cited verse. I Googled, scoured the net, and followed promising leads all of which lead to nothing.
I tried via Internet Archive but no preview is available, I have since registered and I am currently on their waiting list
I used Google Books to search the exact phrase, but that too failed miserably. Here are the screenshots that show my failed attempts:
Entering "cake" in the search box pulls up two results, both of which are unrelated to the idiom "a piece of cake".
To give users an idea of Ogden's poetry, here is the only verse I found online that was published in The Primrose Path, it is about a pig.
Who’s afreud of the big bad dream?
Things are never what they seem;
Daddy’s bowler, Auntie’s thimbles,
Actually are shocking symbols.
Still, I think, a pig’s a pig –
Ah, there, symbol-minded Sig!
I searched for "pig" in the Google Books search box, and a snippet appeared, although it says “Daddy's Derby, Auntie's thimbles.” Yet, I cannot find the verse or the title of the prose that proves Nash first used the idiom, a piece of cake, and not the RAF. It is baffling that Ogden's poem, used as supporting evidence by innumerable sources, is unfindable.
- Has anyone got the book? Can anyone find the light verse where Nash wrote "piece of cake"?