Are You Saying It Wrong? Selling Like Hotcakes

May 29, 2014

In which Uncle John corrects widespread grammatical and language misconceptions.

Selling Like HotcakesThe phrase “selling like hotcakes” is used to describe an item very popular with consumers, that’s flying off the shelves and in large amounts. But why is hotcakes the go-to popular good? Well, it was never really meant to.

Hotcakes were what pancakes were called in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly as a fast food sold at fairs, carnivals, and church events. Hotcakes (or pancakes, or griddlecakes) are cheaply and easily prepared, and different versions reoccur throughout many world cultures and have for hundreds of years. That’s all to say that there was never any kind of hotcake craze that gave us the phrase “selling like hotcakes.”

Still, that phrase has been in use since about 1840. But it’s only over time that the phrase has come to describe a quickly-selling item of merchandise. Under its original meaning, hotcakes sold quickly not because they were a novelty…but because they were literally hot. Who wants to eat cold hotcakes, when they’re doughy and grainy? Nobody. We all want hotcakes, and will buy them when they’re, well, hot.

Nevertheless, this still got us wondering: how are hotcakes selling these days? According to the International House of Pancakes, the chain sells 700 million orders of pancakes each year, or about two million a day. And all of them are sold hot…like hotcakes!

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