A character, coming across some unknown substance, will sometimes smell it with a puzzled expression, then hesitantly taste it. It is almost always something that most people would definitely not want to put into their mouths, but the character somehow decides that this is the best way to determine what it is, because he might just want to know, "Is It Something You Eat?
" for himself. This isn't smart; to test whether a substance is fit to eat, one starts by rubbing it on the arm and waiting an hour to see if it causes a rash, then putting a bit on the tongue without swallowing to see if numbness or swelling occurs. A character who blithely eats something potentially dangerous may have the Idiot Ball
, or just be an idiot.
May lead to It Tastes Like Feet
or I Ate What?
Fingertip Drug Analysis
and The Ketchup Test
are subtropes. Tasty Gold
is closely related, although in this case it's texture that's being tested.
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Anime & Manga
- Alice of Pandora Hearts does this with a lot of things, including flowers and a pet bird.
- In the Patlabor episode "The Tragedy of L," Captain Gotoh tastes a sample of what appears to be blood (but isn't). This horrifies everyone else.
- Captain Britten is the butt of a similar joke in the animated version of Dominion Tank Police. After his first taste he assumes it to be blood plasma; Lovelock is forced to tell him that it's urine.
- Cone constantly by Hareta in the Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure manga, because he was Raised by Wolves. Things that have been in his mouth include Poké Balls, Badges and a Galactic Grunt's ass.
- In a Quattro ad, a tow-truck driver laments the fact he's never towed a Quattro in language reminiscent of a frustrated hunter. Like a hunter, he checks the snowy ground for (tire) tracks, even taste-testing the snow in his search.
- In π, Max tastes a suspicious melted computer part.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, young Willy Wonka seems willing to taste anything as a potential candy ingredient, including mashed caterpillars and the green goo left on his machete after cutting a giant mosquito in half.
- The B-movie The Stuff begins with this trope: a miner, walking out in the woods at night, stumbles upon a mysterious white fluffy substance on the ground. Guess what? It's delicious!
- The exterminator from the movie MouseHunt does this with mouse droppings. He can tell a disturbing amount about the mouse from this...
- In the obscure German movie The Ogre, noone but Hermann Göring shows the protagonist how to do it with deer scat. Squick.
- A gag in Young Doctors In Love involves one character pretending to analyse urine by tasting it. Another character ends up tasting it for real.
- In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Ghengis Khan sniffs and tries to take a bite out of a baseball bat. When he realizes the bat is inedible, he tests its use as a weapon.
- In the sci-fi comedy "Paul", a Man in Black hot on the trail of an escaped extraterrestrial searches for clues at the scene of a car wreck and comes across a puddle of unidentified liquid. In closeup, we see the agent's hand dab a sample of the stuff and lift it off screen. After a beat, he sputters and violently spits it out. It turns out one of the protagonists lost control of his bladder upon seeing the alien.
- In an odd moment in The Bobo, Juan (Peter Sellers) grudgingly takes Olimpia (Britt Ekland) to a posh, dignified fur salon. When a server comes by with a silver tray of tea and wafers, Juan makes an undignified grab for a fistful of wafers. Everyone freezes, and, acknowledging the gaffe, he slowly draws them to his nose and sniffs them suspiciously before taking a bite.
- In the Coneheads movie, Beldar sniffs and eats the miniature soap as he and his wife stay at a motel during their first visit on Earth.
- Parodied in the trailer for Thanksgiving, in Grindhouse, when two cops crouch next to decapitated corpse. The deputy sticks his finger into the puddle of blood and tastes it.
- In Disney's Tarzan, Tarzan, investigating a shotgun casing, picks it up, sniffs it, then licks it. Apparently the taste was unpleasant.
- In Terminator 3 Riseofthe Machines, the T-X picks up a bloody gauze and uses her tongue to do a DNA sampling. To a hidden Kate Brewster, it just looks like some random blonde woman who likes to chew medical waste.
- On an unfamiliar planet, faced with a dish full of eight-legged insectoid things in pink sauce, Zak Arranda from Galaxy of Fear dips a finger in and tastes it to determine if it's as foul as he initially thought, then tucks in enthusiastically. It's a caution he'd do well to have remembered later in the series, when he tries a normal-looking puff pastry, made for fishlike Mon Calamari, and realizes it's full of tiny live crabs.
- Used in the BattleTech Expanded Universe novel Impetus of War, where Loren Jaffray finds an old, abandoned pump station covered in a mysterious white substance with no other way to identify it. Turns out to be nothing more than a large amount of spilled, stale baking flour...which ends up being exactly what he wants. This is because he wants to set up a building-sized dust bomb, very similar to what happens in a grain silo explosion, to use against their Clan enemies, who won't see it coming because they hold to Honor Before Reason.
Live Action TV
- House has cheerfully tasted a homeless woman's old vomit in order to diagnose her.
- He snacks on homemade tomato sauce, currently being tested for botulism.
- He forces a guy in an Antarctic research station to taste a woman's urine in order to test it to determine what's causing the Patient of the Week's unconsciousness. (Truth in Television, as taste-testing of human urine was done by Real Life physicians before chemical assays for glucose and other substances were developed. Diabetes mellitus got its name because it makes a person's urine taste sweet.)
- On Farscape, Chiana happily chomped on a tube of lipstick while experimenting with cosmetics. ("A Constellation of Doubt")
- Jubal Early, the bounty hunter in the final episode of Firefly, sniffs and then licks part of the railing support on the stairway to the cargo bay of a spacefaring equivalent of a rusty old tramp steamer.
- Doctor Who
- Ten is fond of this. He's even licked a piece of Dalek tissue. He analyses a a blood sample in "The Christmas Invasion", his very first episode, by sticking his tongue in it.
Doctor: A-positive, with just a hint of iron.
(All humans present go, "Eeeurg".)
- And the Eleventh determined the age of a shed by licking its wall.
- The Second and Fifth Doctors also do this occasionally.
- It must be a Time Lord thing, as Romana once used the same technique to identify concrete.
- Going by fanon, Fraser does this in Due South.
- In the pilot, Fraser apparently tastes some mud in a witness' garden before confronting her about harbouring a criminal. Vecchio concocts an elaborate theory about how the crucial information might have been gathered from the mud, before Fraser reveals that it was all just a bluff to make the witness think he knew something he was in fact guessing. Did he really put mud in his mouth? It depends on one's interpretation of just how far Fraser is willing to go for a convincing deception.
- Jim Ellison does this in The Sentinel. Justified due to his heightened perception.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
- Gil Grissom does this to a human bone. It's actually a rock, which he can tell by it not sticking to his tongue like a porous bone would. Still pretty nasty.
- In "Crime After Crime" the coroner detects PCP by smelling an organ of the deceased (not tasting it, though).
- On Oz and James Drink To Britain, James May does this with a puddle of something that has leaked from the wheel well of the mobile brewery (a.k.a. caravan) he and Oz are traversing Britain in. The puddle turns out to be James' own homebrew beer.
- Walter has a habit of doing this on Fringe. Subverted in that he often knows what it is (for example, some food he's left lying around the lab or gotten on his clothing) or at least knows it isn't what the other characters think it is (as when he waits until after tasting the contents of an urn to point out that he knows it isn't human cremains - presumably because of the color and because it was actually ashes, while cremains technically aren't).
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has Napoleon Solo doing this five minutes into the first episode, confirming that the substance found is magnesium thermite.
- The X-Files:
- Considering that Fingertip Drug Analysis is Agent Mulder's favourite investigative technique, it's almost inevitable that he would do this from time to time. For instance, he smells and then has a lick of poisonous digitalis in the episode "Eve".
- In "Revelations", Scully can smell flowers while performing an autopsy. She recalls that accounts of miracles involved flowery scents, and she asks Mulder to smell Mr Owen.
- Sherlock apparently knows what mercury tastes like, which comes in useful in 'The Reichenbach Fall'. He does do a lot of experiments.
- Murdoch Mysteries: Only the Sniff-sniff part happens with various coroners who examine organs while performing an autopsy. It appears it was a standard thing to do and sometimes the smell helps to crack the case. Sometimes even the Nom-part occurs.
- Dr Ogden's sister Ruby is visibly disturbed when she watches her sister do it, who tells her she shouldn't be such a mouse.
- Dr Grace handles Constable Crabtree a sample of substance from a dead body. He looks at it, sniffs it and even tastes it. He comments that is looks like sod, smells like sod and tastes like sod. Dr Grace is surprised that he's in the habit of tasting sod.
- In the pilot of Red Dwarf, Dave Lister keeps licking and eating white powder that is all over the ship. Pity he's that Dave. He's disturbed learning he has eaten half the crew.
- When the MythBusters tested the "liferaft parachute" scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, they took some time to dig through everything in the life raft's survival kit. Grant poked a hole in a bottle of green liquid, sniffed, then took a sip.
Mythology & Religion
- Shen Nung Shi, the Chinese mythological tamer of plants, who was said to have tried eating every kind of plant available to see which ones were beneficial and which poisonous.
- Jim Henson did a sketch where a proto-Kermit would sit on a wall and hum "Glow Worm". A proto-Slimey would then crawl up to him. Not-Quite-Kermit would sniff the worm and nom it down. Rule of Three comes into play. The third "worm" would actually be the long nose of a monster that would eat the green thing that kinda looks like Kermit.
- The sketch was done on The Muppet Show, replacing Not-Quite-Kermit with a yellow eyed lizard with fangs. It can be seen here.
- In The Elder Scrolls, you can eat alchemy ingredients to figure out what they do, inflicting a weakened version of that effect on you in the process.
- In Baroque, you identify certain unidentified items (such as Bones, Flesh, and Hearts) by biting them. This can have potentially disastrous results, such as when the unidentified item turns out to be a Boom Bone.
- There's an early scene in The Hotel Fred where a character licks a message on a mirror, and announces that it's guacamole.
- This page of Awkward Zombie features this trope in full effect. Katie as a Khajiit ate a flower and determined it would make a great poison, which is how you quickly find out what an alchemy ingredient can be used for in The Elder Scrolls series.
- Used by Kowalski of The Penguins of Madagascar.
- In the Futurama episode "Leela's Homeworld," Hermes Conrad uses this to determine whether the bright green waste product being generated by the Professor's latest invention is toxic waste.
Hermes: It looks like toxic waste. *sniff sniff* And it smells like toxic waste.
Fry: What does it taste like?
Hermes: (dips finger in barrel and licks it off) Delicious fig pudding! Ooh, that's good! ... But a distinct aftertaste of toxic waste!
- In the episode "A Flight to Remember" the guy Amy's parents try to set her up with does this with the lobster bisque. He's not trying to figure out what it is; he's just gross.
- In the first episode of Gargoyles, while locked up in the rookery with Brooklyn, Lexington, and Bronx, Broadway does a textbook example to some slime he finds. His brothers are understandably disgusted and concerned (that he might eat them).
- Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender does this to the slime/honey? covered walls of a cave.
Katara: You spent the last day hallucinating on cactus juice and now you're licking something stuck on a cave wall?!
Sokka: I have a natural curiosity.
- Most of the dishes cooked by Tino's mom on "The Weekenders" get this treatment.
- Adventure Time: Finn tries to show Susan Strong how to toast marshmallows. Susan tosses away the marshmallow and gnaws at the stick.
Jake: Heh. That's adorable!
- In the Gravity Falls episode "The Inconveniencing" they break into an abandoned convenience store and Mabel examines some dust by licking it off her finger.
Mabel: Yep! It's dust.
- In the video "Troy Shaves His Face," by You Tuber troyhasacamera, creator of Marble Hornets, Troy takes the shaving cream, sniffs the brush, tastes it, and proceeds to cover his whole face in it. In a bloopers tape posted on his Facebook profile, while first tasting the shaving cream, he almost pukes.
- Laci Green rolled out a Birth Control video, and the results might astonish you.
- Rats are hard to poison because, when they discover something unfamiliar that might be food, just one or two members of a colony will act out this trope. Then the other rats all sit back and watch to see if the taste-testers die or not.
- Truth in Television: Most newborn children stick things in their mouths when exploring the world around them.
- Subverted in that this is more of a way for babies to feel an object than taste it. At that age, the mouth is more touch-sensitive and coordinated than fingers.
- Show of hands. how many people will lick their least favorite/ odious food when ordered to "taste it".
- If you get the opportunity to do so, watch a ceramicist or a geologist attempt to identify an unknown material without tools. Chances are, they'll eye it closely, hold it up to the light, scratch it with their fingernail, give it a healthy snort, and then stick it in their mouth. They do this not to determine its edibility, but rather, its porosity and strength. Porous materials tend to stick to the tongue, and it's easier to precisely test relative pressure with your teeth than with your fingers. Also, some materials really do have a distinctive taste. So it's a perfectly rational thing to do with an unknown object, just a little gross and requires a little training.
- It is also used to measure grain size, as it is easier to distinguish between silt and clay by how it grits against your teeth than how it feels under your fingertip. Certain minerals also have a distinctive smell if made warm and damp by exhaling on them.
- This is also a way to tell an authentic pearl from a fake. A real pearl will feel gritty on the teeth, whereas a fake will be smooth.
- Sharks examine everything with their mouth due to a lack of hands. Tiger sharks often take the cake in this as they eat just about anything. This is little consolation to a surfer after the Great White decides he's not a seal.
- This is standard operating procedure for many animals with keen noses when faced with something they think might be edible.
- It's par for the course if you're an archaeologist. The easiest way to decide what sort of ceramic you're holding it to put it to your tongue - terracotta sticks, but the others don't. The same goes for bone, though due to the fragility of the bone after so much time in the ground, it's usually tapped against the teeth instead to see what sound it makes.
- VERY averted for chemists. While smell is often used as an indicator of chemicals, and on very rare occasions, taste, it is heavily discouraged when working with unknown chemicals, and many people have died or been injured heavily by tasting chemicals. On the other hand, accidentally tasting chemicals has, amongst other things, brought artificial sweeteners into the world.
- However, it used to be played straight in the age of alchemy and even early modern chemistry. One version of the cause of the Swedish chemist Carl Scheele's death is being curious what cyanide tastes like.
- Often used to test the purity of gold or tell if it's real, at least in the past. Pure gold is very soft, and the less pure, the harder it is.
- This is why Olympic winners are often seen biting their gold medals. (tradition rather than purity content, though)