At some point you've most likely said or heard someone say "this takes the cake" or "it's a cakewalk". Ever wonder what those phrases mean?
The surprising history from NPR…
The cakewalk was a pre-Civil War dance originally performed by slaves on plantation grounds. The uniquely American dance was first known as the "prize walk"; the prize was an elaborately decorated cake. Hence, "prize walk" is the original source for the phrases "takes the cake" and "cakewalk."
Here's how the dance worked: Couples would stand in a square formation with men on the inside perimeter and then dance around the ballroom "as if in mimicry of the white man's attitudes and manners," according to Richard Kislan. The steps included "a high-leg prance with a backward tilt of the head, shoulders and upper torso."
Plantation owners served as judges for these contests — and the slave owners might not have fully caught on that their slaves might just have been mocking them during these highly elaborate dances.