There's no such thing as taste. Not taste like sweet or sour, taste as in that person has no taste. People use this idea of taste all the time. In some recent moments of intellectual laziness I have found myself tempted to make use of it but on reflection I feel it is complete bullshit and should really never be used. Here's why.

This understanding of the word taste is used to convey the idea that one person's preferences, values or interests are superior to someone else's. When it comes to preferences there can be no such thing as good or bad, only different perspectives. Neighbours might be an interesting, relevant and enjoyable show to a person that finds Mad Men self-indulgent, impenetrable and slow.

People who use the term taste in a derogatory manner show a pretty ugly side to their personalities. I'd argue that the subtext of the claim is often far more hostile and derogatory than its use appears on face value. By using the idea of taste as a weapon, they are often implying that they are, to varying degrees:

  • smarter
  • more refined
  • better educated
  • classier, or
  • richer

than someone else. It's an extremely condescending intellectual stick with which to beat someone, particularly if they actually are less educated or wealthy than you. At that point it becomes simply demeaning and demoralising.

The fact that taste is so indefinable means that you either have it or you do not. It is considered inherent, unlike say playing golf or performing calculus. These are skills developed through effort or merit; saying that some has no taste implies that the person is, in some nebulous fashion, inherently inferior to you because you don't see eye-to-eye.

What a lack of taste amounts to is a different set of priorities. People who claim to possess taste in whatever form should take heed of this. He drives a Mazda, she drives a Mercedes. He might prefer to spend that spare fifty thousand dollars on something that brings him proportionally more joy. She likes Bon Jovi, he likes Tchaikovsky. Thousands of people watch Jon Bon Jovi rip through 'Livin' on a Prayer' every year in stadiums across the world. To deny the validity of other's choices is disrespectful and lazy. If you want to win an argument about quality, you need to be able to articulate what specific aspects of that thing make it superior in ways that anyone could understand. Let your argument live or die on its own merits rather than propping it up with the use of dead-end, dismissive insults.