We’ve all heard the line “this is why we can’t have nice things”. But where does that phrase come from?
What Is The Origin Of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”?
Nobody knows exactly where the phrase “this is why we can’t have nice things” comes from. However, it was popularised by the comedian Paula Poundstone who used it in a set. Some think she got the idea from Dorothy Solomon who wrote “I have little children instead of nice things.”
Who Is Paula Poundstone? And What Did She Mean By “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
Paula Poundstone is a famous comedian. She’s a British woman who got very popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Although today, she’s still performing, it’s fair to say that her heyday is over.
She’s the kind of woman who’s never afraid to say it how it is. Some of her sets might make you feel like you’re being targeted, but that’s why she’s such a good comedian.
Her line “this is why we can’t have nice things” comes from a story about her dropping a jar as a kid.
Who Was Dorothy Solomon? And How Did She Come Up With The Origin For “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”?
Dorothy Solomon was not a comedian at all. She was what was known as a “polygamy educator”. It was her job to teach people about what it was like to teach people about polygamous relationships.
In one of her books called, “In my father’s house”, which is about life in polygamy, she has this quote…
“Why don’t you have nice things like Aunt Marion?” I asked my mother. “I have little children instead of nice things.” She smiled.”
Some people suspect this is where Paula Poundstone got the idea for “this is why we can’t have nice things”.
What Does “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Mean?
Now that we have an idea where it probably comes from, what does “this is why we can’t have nice things” mean?
This isn’t one of those phrases with some kind of hidden meaning. It means what it sounds like it means.
When someone does something stupid to a cheap item, like drop it, you can say “this is why we can’t have nice things”. What you’re saying is “because you have broken this cheap item, it suggests that you would do the same with a more expensive item.”
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Is A Popular Meme
Online, you may have seen a lot of memes with the text “this is why we can’t have nice things” written on them.
Most of the time, these memes contain a picture of an animal doing something stupid, or making a mess. The idea is that it’s both funny and stupid.
Most of us know that animals are rather clumsy. And having a pet is not a good idea if you have a lot of expensive items in your house. The joke is that you’re treating the animals as a human by complaining about them breaking and damaging things.
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Is A Taylor Swift Song
“This is why we can’t have nice things” is also the title of a song by Taylor Swift. Unlike a lot of her other songs, this one is not about her ex.
Instead, it’s about all of the people who have betrayed her.
The feud started after Taylor won an award, and Kanye interrupted her to say that Beyonce should have won. After the feud supposedly ended, Kanye put a naked model who looked like Swift in a music video.
The message behind the song is “We can’t have a friendship, because you stabbed me in the back after I forgave you”.
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Is Just Part Of Our Language Now
Like we said at the beginning of this article, although Paula Poundstone popularised it, it’s impossible to know where the phrase comes from. It’s one of those phrases that has become such a key part of our lexicon that its origin has now faded from memory.
Maybe Poundstone was the first person to say this phrase. Maybe she stole it from someone else. What we’ve spoken about in this article is not fact, it’s merely theory.
Or maybe it doesn’t need an origin because it isn’t an idiom. An idiom is a phrase with a literal AND intended meaning (such as bun in the oven).
“This is why we can’t have nice things”’ literal meaning is the same as its implied one.
And that is all we know about the phrase “This is why we can’t have nice things” and its origin. To put it bluntly, we don’t know where it comes from, but the best we can do is have a good guess.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.