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Metaphors, taste and smell


Techniques > Use of languageMetaphor > Metaphors, taste and smell

Taste | Smell | Eating | See also


Taste and smell are very closely related in our gustatory sensation system. There are four basic tastes: Sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. Each of these may be used to signify equivalent feelings.


Eating is more than just sustenance, it is a visceral experience that can be very satisfying or totally disgusting (note that 'disgusting' is a taste-based word).


Things that taste good make feel good.

Isn't he just scrumptious?

She's my gorgeous honey.

That's really sweet of you.


The opposite of goodness is where something is bad. Something that tastes bad can be really sickening and metaphors can use this.

The proposition was rather unpalatable.

The party ended on a sour note.

He stayed to the bitter end.

Note that things that we do not eat but know would taste horrible are often used to indicate bad taste.

That's a pretty shitty thing to do.

He's a rotten egg.


Taste can be used to indicate that a good or bad choice has been made.

It was all in the best possible taste.

He has poor taste in clothing.


Taste also comes in different forms of intensity, from mild to strong. This variation may be used in metaphors.

It's the vanilla version.

Spice girls!

That's a rather bland statement.


Smell is perhaps the most evocative emotion and may be used to trigger deep emotions.


When something is good, then it may be associated with a nice smell.

The sweet smell of success.

She had a fragrant personality.

The bouquet of Summer followed her into the room.


An important use of our sense of smell is to be able to detect food that is unsuitable to eat -- the alternative being poisoning and possible death. This hazard can be transferred into metaphor.

That idea stinks.

He reeks of evil.

The stench of impending doom hung in the air.



The various process of eating and taking in food may also be used as metaphors for consuming, thinking and general acceptance.

That's food for though. Let me chew on it for a while.

That was difficult to swallow.

That joke went down well.

I'm just digesting what was said.


The gustatory opposite of ingestion is when we expel foods for example when they do not sit well with us or in disposal of unwanted wastes.

He's pissing away the family fortune.

That makes me sick.

See also


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