I hear it all the time in arguments over subjective judgements:

There's no accounting for taste.

Where does this saying come from? Is it a quote or old proverb?


It's an English adaptation of a Latin saying:

De gustibus non est disputandum.

Meaning literally regarding taste, there is no dispute. The phrase seems to be of medieval origin. The origin is accepted as Scholastic writings because of the grammar, which is atypical. A more faithful Latin rendering of the phrase might be:

De gustatibus non disputandum.

There's some uncertainty about whether gustus (gustibus) or gustatus (gustatibus) is more appropriate.

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    Jinx! Well, you got it first. – Mitch Jul 7 '11 at 15:48
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    Umm. Probably not a "Roman proverb" then. But even if it was, in the end this is simply an obvious thing to say - regardless of what language it was first said in. – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '11 at 16:07
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    @Fumble - it's weird that you have not frequently heard this figure of speech. – Fattie Jul 7 '11 at 18:33
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    I'm very late to the party here, but I want to know the origin of the specific English wording. Whether it was meant as a direct translation or not, the meanings are distinctly different. One is sort of philosophical, i.e. taste is by definition purely subjective and argument is by definition meant to be objective. The other is usually used as a ("pithy"-@FumbleFingers) slight, and means something more like, I don't know where your strange taste comes from. So, anyone know where/when the English version came into being? – Henry74 Jan 24 '15 at 0:28
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    It seems clear to me that the same phrase can easily be used in earnest (taste is subjective) or sarcastically (your taste is weird) in any language. – Jon Purdy Mar 10 '16 at 22:04

It is a loan translation of the latin proverb:

De gustibus non est disputandum

meaning literally "there's nothing to be argued about about taste". I don't know which Latin author first used it or if it was a folk saying.

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    Wiktionary claims it's probably of medieval origin. – user1579 Jul 7 '11 at 15:49
  • "Accounting for" something is different from arguing about it. "Where did the stapler go?" "We can't account for it, gone missing." I think it is more about "explaining" something or justifying it rather than disputing it. The sarcasm comes in by implying that the person's taste is inexplicable. (Which sounds strangely like despicable.) – user126158 Apr 21 '16 at 20:22

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 22 '12 at 10:48

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