Does success literally taste sweet?
October 3, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Does success literally taste sweet?

"The sweet taste of (victory/success)" is a common phrase, but I can't find the phrase's origin or if there's any truth to it. Does the hivemind know?

Recently, I was really happy about how I'd played in a soccer game, and I noticed a literally sweet taste on my lips, so I'm hoping it's a real, scientifically-documented effect.
posted by sninctown to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet Smell of Success is a well-known and acerbic 1957 movie.

It looks as though that exact phrase actually originated as the title of that movie, based on an earlier story in Cosmopolitan in 1954.

I think it's metaphorical. I occasionally notice a sweetish taste in my mouth sometimes, sourish sometimes...I imagine that, knowing the phrase, remarking on a sweet taste at a moment of actual victory would be hard to separate from confirmation bias. A sweet taste in the mouth has often been noted as a symptom of diabetes, though.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Found some mentions of "taste of success" (again metaphorical) going back to 1924.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2010

Sweetness traditionally has meant perfection, or the satisfaction of all desires, and the word was widely used to describe things that have no flavor at all. For example, fertile acreage would be called "sweet land." It's only recently that it's picked up the more shallow, saccharine connotations. Source: Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:45 PM on October 3, 2010

I think SpongeBob knows a little bit about this.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:48 PM on October 3, 2010

According to the OED, sweet has been used metaphorically to refer to something pleasing (in general) since 888 CE. The earliest mention I could find of it being attached to success is 1684:

"A Woman drunk with sweet Success; Whom smiling Fate had brought to dare no less"
From Creech's translation of the Odes, Satyrs, and Epistles of Horace
posted by Paragon at 8:06 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Miko, did you mean to link to the current thread?
posted by nrobertson at 8:41 PM on October 3, 2010

See this.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:51 AM on October 4, 2010

I'm not sure about an actual taste, but I'd bet that there's a strong association between success and sweetness. Psych research supports that we have priming for associations like God being "up" and old-related words leading people to complete their actions more slowly. So I could imagine that you might be more drawn toward sweet-tasting things, or prefer sweet smells when primed with success.
posted by bizzyb at 8:53 AM on October 4, 2010

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