This past Sunday afternoon, my wife took time to follow the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for “The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.” The result was indeed the best chocolate sheetcake I’ve ever had.
But it wasn’t just a culinary event. It also fed our vocabulary — yet another political word for this turbulent year.
What does cake have to do with politics? The instigator, Tina Fey, explained it on the evening of Thursday, August 17, on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
To those who want to show their opposition to alt-right rallies, Fey advised, simply “don’t show up.” Rather than confronting the alt-right demonstrations, she recommended “sheetcaking.” And she demonstrated what she meant by demolishing and devouring a generous portion of cake, stuffing her mouth while ranting at alt-right targets.
Her proposal got her in trouble with some more militant progressives. After all, it smacks a little of “let them eat cake.” But she was (sort of) serious.
It’s not often that we are privileged to observe the exact circumstances of the birth of a word. (Or perhaps rebirth. Fey said “sheetcaking is a grass-roots movement. Most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election.” But evidence of anyone using the word with that meaning before this past Thursday is scant.)
During the broadcast, Fey consumed a cake from La Delice Pastry Shop, in Manhattan, decorated with an American flag. It happened to be a three-layer cake rather than a sheetcake, but that just made the demolition all the more impressive.
The word is already recorded with Fey’s new meaning in Urban Dictionary.
It has made its way into discussions on Wordnik and more than a dozen tweets, though as yet without a definition.
Other more slow-paced lexical sites have yet to welcome the political meaning of sheetcake in less than a week. And it’s a question whether it will be just a flash in the pan of political words for 2017.
So far (I write this on Monday afternoon) I find no evidence of a counter-baking strategy proposed by the alt-right.
You can, however, buy it on a T-shirt from Amazon. In addition to “sheetcaking,” the plain shirts have big letters reading “Sheetcakers unite” and “Yell it into the sheetcake.”
Food for thought, in any case.Return to Top