44 Comments

  1. Well, FWIW I would say I am well above average in terms of education (three graduate degrees, including a doctorate in anxiety literature from a snooty English school) and I did not recognize it. Does that help?

  2. I’m well-read, but I’ve never seen that phrase. (I took french in high school, so I could at least figure out pronunciation.)

  3. I’ve certainly seen it many times and understand it (three years of French, and two master’s degrees — in English lit and in Library Science) — but no, I doubt that I would myself use it other than to very specialized audiences of folks whom I suspected to be well above average in reading experience and general curiosity (like the folks here).

  4. I cannot speak French at all, but my very first impression was that the wording was off. A little research revealed that the form with which I am familiar (“chacun à son goût”) comes from a (German!) verse in “Die Fledermaus” (by Strauss*), so it may have been “bent” there to fit the meter or for comic effect. The phrase is reasonably well-known here, but I have no idea how familiar it is among American readers.

  5. No. I had to look it up. I consider myself fairly well educated, aware, years of experience, and have a fairly large vocabulary. But now I know more. Also, being on the west coast, I think our core education differs from other parts of the country. It does (did) for everyone.

  6. I also think of the word order arranged as Kilby has it.
    But anyhow, is there a reason to say it in French? Do you get into problems of gendered pronouns in English? “To each his own.” .. if you’re willing to have that “his”.

  7. 1. I was aware of this phrase. (Not bragging; I didn’t know what a CardiB was when her “covideo” meme showed up.
    2. With the Google only a click a way, throwing in a side phrase is fun. For me, it’s similar to the sidepaths we go on when the CIDU comments reference other, perhaps related, topics! But this may not be to everyone’s taste lol.

  8. to add a footnote to my earlier comment, my college education was focused on being a computer engineer so we did not have the same broad base of humanities as others may have had.

  9. Basic French idiomatic phrase: chacun à son goût, or each to his/her own taste. Whatever floats your boat, as in things or food.

    But how many have taken basic French or even ran across it and retained it? Skip it, I’d say.

    Maybe use YMMV. Too slangy or modern? Seems okay now, as language usage changes…

  10. Mutation of the French à chacun son goût (“to each his own taste”), typically heard amongst Laurentian, Quebecois and Louisiana Francophones. The well-known aria by this name in the Strauss opera Die Fledermaus may have helped establish the mutation.

  11. I first came across it when Die Fledermaus was on TV with English subtitles. But the subtitle for “chacun à son goût” was “chacun à son goût”. So I looked it up in my dictionary. I was pre-teen at the time.

    It used to be common for writers to use French, Greek, and Latin phrases when writing for literati. Greek is out, with the exception of a very few phrases (e.g. hoi polloi). Latin phrases are more common, but still much fewer acceptable ones than previously. I suspect that French ones are also waning.

    If you want to avoid the gendered pronoun, would “There’s no accounting for taste” work?

    I suspect that, in general, if you ask even yourself if something is acceptable, it’s probably not.

  12. I recognized it, but I’m older than most. I use “De gustibus non est disputandum” as my go-to. Sometimes just “de gustibus…” with a sorrowful shake of the head.

  13. ….. and what the *HECK* would be wrong with simply saying: “to each his own” (I broke down and googled it) which is a *very* common and universally accepted and understood, but not in the least plebian, phrase?

    I get there is a fine line between being literate and expecting others to be, and between showing off to show how literate you are by deliberatelly *avoiding* the common, presumably only *because* it is the common? But I think this clearly crosses that line.

  14. I’ve heard it, but have no clue what it means, and have never gotten around to looking it up.

  15. First I ever heard of the French phrase. It reminds me of the French stuff Frasier and Niles Crane used to throw into conversations. The reply from their dad would probably be something about a chicken with gout.

  16. I don’t think I’ve ever used it, but I speak French and recognized it. But I’ve heard it as ‘chacun à son goût’, and that’s what Google Translate gives.

  17. My first thought was that it is common enough to use, but so many of the intelligent people here were unfamiliar with it that I’m recanting that. I learned it half a century ago while performing in Die Fledermaus, and I’ve read it numerous times since then.

  18. I too owe my familiarity with the phrase to Die Fledermaus, so I would say use it only if your intended audience is familiar with that operetta…

  19. So, now we’ve been batting around the FLEDERMAUS quotation for a while:

    I’m reminded of a British (?) version: “To each his own,” as the man said when he kissed the pig.”

    Probably another one I wouldn’t use unless I was pretty sure of my audience.

    (I was tempted to ‘improve’ it by making it “as the man said when he French-kissed the pig,” but decided not to inflict that image upon the good folks here. Aren’t you glad I’m so considerate?)

  20. I knew it, but (a) my father was a polymath linguist and (b) I grew up in Canada, where dey talk dat dere Joual, eh? so I’m not sure my knowing it proves anything.

  21. It’s interesting that so many French sayings could just as easily be said in English, but so many German words have no English equivalent. Weltschmerz. Weltanschauung. Schadenfreude. Wanderlust,

    When we DO have an equivalent for a German word we translate it to Latin instead. Freud gave the three parts of the psyche very simple German words: das Es. das Ich and das Über-ich. The it, the I and the over-I. Or perhaps better in English as the it, the me and the over-me. But no, we have to call them the id, the ego and the superego.

  22. OT: I just read the word plebian above.
    Recently in an adult spelling bee (rare, but they exist, sometimes for charity) I gave that spelling, natch, and was ruled wrong. It was plebeian in their dictionary.
    I had to search two more dictionaries at home before I found my spelling.
    So plebeian is preferred. Umph.

  23. I had run into the phrase, but I had to ponder deeply to remember what the heck it meant.

    If you had written “de gustibus” I would have known instantly.

    Writer with multiple degrees here. Granted they’re in science and my writing was pretty technical.

  24. I think the first place I heard the expression was in “Have Some Madeira, M’dear,” and it was the mangled version (chacun à). Of course, they rhymed “goût” with “out” so the authenticity of the French should have been in doubt anyway…

  25. Both versions work, actually.
    “A chacun son goût” is the maxim; but, for example, in front of a buffet, you could say “on se sert chacun à son goût”= help yourself to your own taste.

  26. Related to all this: minutes ago, I read an article in the Atlantic that included “The association between competence and traditional dress is so durable, in part, because for years mass media have told us that machers wear well-cut suits or prim sheath dresses in neutral tones.”

    Was I expected to know what that meant? WIDU!

    What makes me feel a little better is that my spellcheck is flagging this as “not a word.”

  27. I know, Arthur: I suspected she was going Yiddish on me, but I still had to look it up since I’d never heard the word used in mainstream English.

    The question is, did this belong in an Atlantic article?

  28. “The question is, did this belong in an Atlantic article?”

    New Yorker, fine. Atlantic, not so much.

  29. I’m loosely following an “official podcast” for the current miniseries adaptation of The Plot Against America”. (Dialogs with Peter Sagal sort-of host conversing with David Simon sort-of-subject.) They praised how Roth, throughout his career, received some criticism from the Jewish public for portraying all sorts of different Jewish experience, and strategies of immigrant and second-generation Americans. They mention, among the characters of Plot, the very unpleasant builder/contractor Abe Steinheim, and comment that he is realistic, that unsavory behavior is how a macher gets where he is and tries to stay there.

  30. On this site I don’t worry about using Yiddishisms or New York type expressions as people here seem to understand them.

    On the other hand, on the needlework groups I am on, I would not try to even use “Oy” without explaining what it is. I was telling a group of friends on one of those lists about how strange Passover and Easter were this year and decided that I better explain to them “the ceremonial plate with items representing things about the holiday for the religious ceremony with dinner on the first and second night of Passover” – so they would not be scratching their middle American shiksa heads trying to figure out what I was talking about.

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