Smelly and Tasty

Back in 2002, I asked: “Why is ‘tasty’ good but ‘smelly’ bad?” Now there’s a linguistic attempt to answer this, in a book chapter titled — I kid you not — A Note on an Asymmetry in the Hedonic Implicatures of Olfactory and Gustatory Terms. The author’s main explanation seems to be,

[T]he things that we taste and the things that we smell differ systematically in how pleasant and unpleasant they are. The reason is that we have generally more control over what we put into our mouth than what enters our nose. If one guiding principle of our behavior is the maximization of pleasure, and if there are roughly equally many pleasant and unpleasant smells and tastes available, then we should draw more pleasure out of the sense that we can control, than out of the sense that we cannot control as easily. Consequently, what we taste will be more likely pleasant than what we smell.

Thanks to Prof. Kai von Fintel (Language Log) for the pointer.