10

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?

13

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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    @Joe Blow: I guess. Although my first reaction on reading the Latin version would probably be "Oh! They had the same insight we do!". And mentally translate their version as "You can't argue with matters of taste", not see it as the "original" version of our saying. Surely in several hundred years it could have occured to someone to say our (quite pithy) version without needing to see a similar sentiment expressed in Latin. – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '11 at 20:35
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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 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

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