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"A plane crashed here."
Cordell Walker after applying this trope to dirt on Walker, Texas Ranger

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, sometimes because they might be wondering "Is It Something You Eat?". 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, Tastes Like Chicken, Tastes Like Purple or I Ate WHAT?!

Fingertip Drug Analysis and The Ketchup Test are subtropes. Tasty Gold is closely related, although in that case it's texture that's being tested.


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  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Alice of PandoraHearts 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.
  • Done 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.
  • Neko in Project K Return of Kings chomps on a bird and comments "I can't eat it."

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Gensokyo 20XX:
    • Due to being near blind from the rat poison incident, Reimu has a habit of putting things in her mouth to see if they are edible or not. Ironically, this is what caused her to eat the rat poison that left her near blind in the first place, along with Curiosity Killed the Cast and Curiosity Is a Crapshoot, along with being an Extreme Omnivore.
      Amoridere: Well, yeah, as that is what had prompted her to eat the rat poison in the first place because she wanted to see if it was food and, since it tasted sweet (it does last I checked), she thought it was something to eat and continued to eat it until the jar was empty.
    • This also occurs with Ryuuko in Cellar Secrets, however, unlike Reimu, she gets a more of a pass on it, as, due to having been locked away in a cellar since she was in her formative years and being a currently rehabilitated Feral Child, she hadn't had much a chance to learn how not to identify objects this way. According to chapter eight, she categorizes things this way by grouping things as edible and inedible based on what they taste or feel like.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Disney's Tarzan, Tarzan, investigating a shotgun casing, picks it up, sniffs it, then licks it. Apparently the taste was unpleasant.
  • In Mole's first appearance in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, he plucks a speck of dirt from beneath Milo's fingernails and, through a combination of microscope analysis and licking it, quickly determines Milo to be a linguist.
  • In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Lord Garmadon follows the ninjas through the jungle by licking the dirt with their tracks.
  • Ratatouille: Remy's job in the rat pack is detecting any poison in food that is found.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In π, Max tastes a suspicious melted computer part.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the Palaeolithic prehumans wake up to find a totally alien monolith outside their cave, they are completely freaked. It relentlessly sits there as they slowly grow bolder and start checking it out, including a few sniffs and a quick nibble to see if it's edible.
  • 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.
  • J-Men Forever just has the sniff version.
    J-Man: What do you know about this?
    [analyst gives substance the sniff test, then sneezes]
    Analyst: Ha-a-a-hashish!
    J-Man: Hashish oil, eh?
  • 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 1996, no one 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, Genghis 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.
    Deputy: It's blood.
    Sheriff: Son of a bitch!
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the 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.
  • In Spaceballs, Lone Star jams Spaceball 1's radar in order to rescue Princess Vespa. The radar screen on the bridge starts dripping a viscous red substance, which Dark Helmet samples and tastes on his fingertip: "Raspberry! Only one man would dare give me the raspberry: Lone Star!"

  • Used in the BattleTech 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 (he also had intel on the building that had informed him that it had been used to store flour and was double-checking, not just randomly tasting something he'd found). 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.
  • Star Wars Legends: 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI:
    • 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).
  • 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.
      The Doctor: A-positive, with just a hint of iron.
      [all humans present are squicked]
    • Eleven determines the age of a shed by licking the wall.
    • The Second and Fifth Doctors also do this occasionally.
    • Thirteen is fond of this as well. She eats some dirt to determine her location, time period, and the location of a nearby Alpaca farm (and its Tripadvisor rating, but that may have just been the Obfuscating Insanity talking). She also both squicks and intrigues Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont when she does a taste analysis on a crushed skeleton hand to determine its century of origin. Then she sniffs a man's coat to determine that they've arrived in Devon in 1949. The sniffee indignantly points out that it's 1967 (he's had the coat for a while).
    • It must be a Time Lord thing, as Romana once used the same technique to identify concrete.
  • 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.
    • Fraser also sniffs dog urine and baby vomit in two different episodes.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • House:
    • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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 hands Constable Crabtree a sample of substance from a dead body. He looks at it, sniffs it and then tastes it. He comments that is looks like soot, smells like soot and tastes like soot. Dr. Grace is surprised that he's in the habit of tasting soot, and George tells her he used to clean his aunt's chimney and was once destined to do so for a living.
    • Murdoch tastes the contents of a dynamite stick used to stage a train robbery and says, "Flour."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In a very disgusting and Fridge Logic-inducing scene in a first season episode of Primeval, Stephan sniffs then tastes the feces from a Pteranodon. He is somehow able to tell via taste that it hasn't been eating humans and that the real Monster of the Week has yet to be caught.
  • In the pilot of Red Dwarf, Dave Lister keeps licking and eating the white powder that is all over the ship. Pity he's that Dave. He's rather disturbed to learn that the powder is the remains of the rest of the crew.
  • Jim Ellison does this in The Sentinel. Justified due to his heightened perception.
  • Sherlock apparently knows what mercury tastes like, which comes in useful in "The Reichenbach Fall". He does do a lot of experiments.
  • In the Studio C sketch "Couchville", Matt is digging around under his couch cushions and gets his fingers coated in an unknown pinkish substance. He reacts with disgust after taking a sniff and a tentative lick, but finding nowhere to wipe off his hand, he sticks his fingers in his mouth and slurps it.
  • Supernatural. In "Southern Comfort", Garth steps in some sticky green goo which he tastes to identify it as ghost ectoplasm, to the visible distaste of the Winchesters.
  • In Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, this is parodied when Beth and Greg find a pile of toxic waste with a Sickly Green Glow. Greg dips two fingers in and dabs it on his tongue to taste it. He confirms it's nuclear waste then tastes it again to reconfirm. He then takes out a spoon to try some more. Finally, they leave the puddle to notify the camp, but not before Greg has another spoonful of the goo.
  • 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.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Shennong, the Chinese mythological tamer of plants and medic, who was said to have tried eating every kind of plant available to see which ones were beneficial and which were poisonous.
    • in some versions of the myth, his quest ended when he accidentally ate a poisonous plant and died before he could drink his medicinal antidote of tea.

    Tabletop Games 

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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 redone on The Muppet Show, replacing Not-Quite-Kermit with Lenny the Lizard. It can be seen here.
  • Humorously inverted in the last episode of Fraggle Rock. Upon finally discovering the existence of Fraggles, Doc had been attempting to lure Gobo out with some food, including some pizza, a donut, and even some dog biscuits. Gobo would often take them undetected, but instead of eating them, he and the other Fraggles had been using them as decorative pieces.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, science officer Suvi Anwar does the lick test on an alien rock out of habit, forgetting that this is a very bad idea in a star cluster that has been royally messed up by both a dangerous dark energy phenomenon and a malfunctioning terraforming network. Fortunately she doesn't suffer any long term effects.
  • In The Sims 2: Castaway the only way to identify whether unknown plants are edible is to have your Sims eat them and see if they throw up. This includes toxic plants like manchineel fruit, which in Real Life are so poisonous that their sap can burn skin.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: In season 14's "The 'Mission'", after finding the base on the ice planet, Iowa licked it to check that it was real and not a hallucination.

  • 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.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Yokoka sniffs and licks mud off her hand in a Q&A strip, thinking it might be chocolate. She then does exactly the same again with the mud on her other hand.

    Web Videos 
  • In the video "Troy Shaves His Face," by YouTuber 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.
    today i learned u shouldnt eat diaphragms

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • In one episode, 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 Pods", when the final pod starts leaking brown fluid, Jake touches it and licks his finger.
      Jake: Tastes good.
      Finn: Dang, man! Don't just lick stuff!
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender does this to the slime/honey? covered walls of a cave.
    Katara: You've been hallucinating on cactus juice all day, and then you just lick something you find stuck to the wall of a cave?!
    Sokka: I have a natural curiosity.
  • Big City Greens: In "Green Greens", Bill uses this method when he sees his kale plants wilting and detects amounts of plastic, before discovering it's the result of Cricket burying trash in the garden.
  • Futurama:
    • In the 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).
  • 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 episode 105 of Kaeloo, Kaeloo notices a white liquid on the floor. She dips her finger into it and licks it, and realizes that it is yogurt.
  • Used by Kowalski of The Penguins of Madagascar, him being the resident scientist.
  • Quick Draw McGraw: In "Dynamite Fright," Quick Draw does this to a stick of dynamite.
    Quick Draw: It looks like dynamite.
    [He takes a sniff.] It smells like dynamite.
    [He takes a bite.] It tastes like dynamite.
    [He hits his hoof with it. KABOOM!]
    And it kabooms like dynamite.
  • Most of the dishes cooked by Tino's mom on The Weekenders get this treatment.

    Real Life 
  • Dogs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Diabetes was one of the first diseases identified due to the patient's urine tasting sweet.
  • 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).
  • Reportedly, Dean of Westminster and notorious Bunny-Ears Lawyer William Buckland pulled this once: when investigating mysterious stains in a church believed to be the blood of saints, he decided to take a lick, and declared it to be bat urine. As Buckland was an Extreme Omnivore, it's not unlikely he was speaking from experience.


Video Example(s):


Buck Analyses Dinosaur Tracks

Buck licks the dinosaur tracks and appears to make an astute conclusion from that alone, even to who the dinosaur was carrying. It turns out that he just saw them pass by earlier.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / SniffSniffNom

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