dis-tayst-fêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Unpleasant, disagreeable, not to someone's taste. 2. Objectionable, offensive.
Notes: There are two negative adjectives based on the noun taste that should not be confused. Tasteless means "lacking in taste", where taste can refer to physical taste or cultural taste, as a tasteless dish or a tasteless dress. Today's word means "disagreeable", as a distasteful but necessary duty. The adverb for this adjective is distastefully and the noun, distatefulness.
In Play: Let us begin today with an example that distinguishes the two words we sometimes confuse: "I find Barb Dwyer's assertion that our clothes are tasteless very distasteful." You may find something distasteful even though it is pleasant if it is objectionable for some reason: "Ida Claire finds kissing in public highly distasteful." (Especially if who she kisses hasn't brushed their teeth.)
Word History: It is hard to believe that such an English-sounding word was borrowed from Old French taster, from Vulgar Latin tastare. This verb is probably the frequentative of tangere "to touch", meaning "to touch often". If so, its underlying root is ta(n)g "to touch, handle". This root had a Fickle N, an [n] sound that appeared in some languages but not others. With the Fickle N, we see it in tangent and tangible. Without the Fickle N, we see it in integer and integral. Every year the government touches you for tax [tag-s], another member of the family. Of course, anything that touches your tongue, you taste.
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