Acquired taste?

中国日报网 2018-04-20 15:01



Acquired taste?Reader question:

Please explain “acquired taste” in this passage:

We are in the same position. English is an acquired taste, not my native language either.

My comments:

This appears to be a response by someone to a fellow English learner, neither being a native speaker.

Acquired taste refers to this, the fact that the taste or ability to appreciate English is acquired or learned through effort and experience. In other words, English is not what they were born into.

One’s instincts such as fight or flight in times of danger are innate, something we’re born with. However, the knowledge to tell if a neighborhood is dangerous or safe, tranquil or noisy and hence whether it will be an ideal place to live in retirement is an acquired knowledge, something learned after careful study plus real-life experience.

English as an acquired taste also suggests that the speaker and his fellow learner like the language very much, more and more as a matter of fact, as time goes on. In the beginning, they may not even like English in any particular way, but as they get more familiar with it, its peculiar grammar notwithstanding, they begin to like it more and more.

That’s the thing with an acquired taste, or acquiring and developing a taste. It takes effort and time. A taste for mild and sugar, for example, is not an acquired taste. Every baby likes them. Babies clutch a mild bottle like holding on to their dear life. No prodding, goading or coaxing necessary, in other words.

A taste for tobacco, coffee or wine, on the other hand, may be examples of an acquired taste. Let’s take developing a taste for dry wine as an example. For many Chinese, especially those whose idea of a good alcoholic drink is a binge in baijiu, or the Chinese white liquor, the first dip in dry red wine is often one of bitter experience. One friend still winces recalling his first sip: “Ugh,” he says, “it was horrible. Never had anything so distasteful before. Sour, sweet and acidic, sharp and repulsive. I took a mouthful and would’ve spitted it out at once if I was alone. It’s not unlike my first taste of a Chinese medicine soup. Quite unbearable.”

As time goes on, however, this friend begins to enjoy dry red wine more and more. “It’s a variety of smells, tastes, flavors mingled together.” Instead of spitting it out immediately, he now enjoys retaining wine in the mouth, “savoring its changing impact on the tongue and palate – delicious.”

All right, here are a few media examples of an “acquired taste”:

1. One day in 1979, the King of Cool decided to fly.

Before anyone knew it, Steve McQueen was living with his girlfriend in a hangar at the Santa Paula Airport. During the day, he learned to pilot a World War II-era biplane. In the evening, the tough-guy superstar would crack open cold beers with grease monkeys, fledgling pilots and aging flyboys who still had a few loop-de-loops left in them.

McQueen and his girlfriend, a stunning model who would become his third wife, slept on a four-poster brass bed amid his vintage motorcycles and airplane parts. His bright- yellow Stearman biplane loomed over their cramped quarters, its wings close enough to create a head-whacking hazard for someone groping through the dark.

But life was good: On Saturday nights, the couple kicked back in their hangar -- really a big storage shed -- to watch “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” on a black-and-white TV. Dinner was often a feed at the local Chinese restaurant.

“It was a sweet time in a sweet place,” said Barbara McQueen, the last woman in his life. “We just loved it.”

Those days will be celebrated next weekend at a fundraiser for an aviation museum under construction at the 78-year-old airport.

Barbara McQueen, author with Marshall Terrill of a memoir called “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile,” will tell some stories and sign some books. Vintage planes, the longtime specialty at the privately owned airport, will be on display, along with period cars and motorcycles.

The airport, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, has long been a draw for celebrities. Cliff Robertson still has a hangar there, and stars such as Gene Hackman and Leonard Nimoy used to show up frequently.

But McQueen was a different order of star. His characters -- as rugged, sullen and tightly wound as he was himself -- set a new standard for macho men of action. He was volatile on-screen and off, and, since his death in 1980, his charisma has only grown. Even so, the legend has its limits.

“I hate to sound nonchalant about it,” said his widow, with more than a hint of McQueen’s famed cool, “but to me he was a normal guy -- a guy with a fun job.”

She said she never asked him why he poured himself into flying. After he died, some said that his father, who abandoned the family when McQueen was a baby, had been a barnstormer with an aerial circus. As with other McQueen myths, there is no evidence to support it, said biographer Terrill.

Around the airport, the highest-paid actor of his day was known as an ordinary Joe. People took pleasure in shielding him from the paparazzi that trooped to the small citrus town.

“The main thing he enjoyed is that he wasn’t idolized here,” said Pete Mason, a pilot who, with his wife, runs a business repairing airplane fabric.

Mason’s father, Sammy Mason, was a renowned test pilot who was approached by McQueen for lessons. Pete had to tell his dad that the Steve who called him really was the actor he claimed to be. “Dad!” he recalled saying in exasperation. “‘The Great Escape’? The guy on the motorcycle?”

An expert at car and motorcycle racing, McQueen proved to be an adept pilot. With only a ninth-grade education, he struggled to pass the written test and succeeded on his third try.

Mike Dewey, a retired movie stunt flier who also helped instruct McQueen, was impressed with his “incredible discipline” as he practiced grueling aerobatic moves.

But Dewey’s warmest memories were of the after-hours get-togethers and McQueen’s fondness for Old Milwaukee beer, an inexpensive brew known as an acquired taste.

“He was in character drinking that awful stuff,” Dewey said. “It just brings a smile to my face.”

- Steve McQueen’s life as average Joe,, November 30, 2008.

2. It’s in the back of a dingy old storage basement. The floor is made of dirt and there is the faintest, rhythmic trickle of water dripping somewhere nearby. The stale scent of must fills the air. In the depths of a fermentation cellar lies one lonely little bottle that looks so dusty that it’s near the point of being reclaimed by Mother Nature herself.

Yet within this bottle, for some time now, a war has been waging. It’s a microscopic war with bacteria and yeast as the pawns and a certain delicate flavor profile as the objective.

There was a time when the products of these molecular battles were almost as minute and marginalized as the battles themselves. But recently, that is all changing. Sour beers, the very draft of history that they are, are on the rise! They might not be the crisp, straight-laced lagers that we used to know. In fact, some of them are approaching the very antithesis of that. They are deep, complex and mysterious.

With more and more bottles of this esoteric elixir being pulled out of the depths of various fermentation cellars all around the world, sour beers are exploding onto the American craft scene. But, many know so little about them. How do these beers tempt the tentative novice or prompt the IPA loving consumer to deviate down the delicious rabbit hole? It’s simple. They wait for you to talk to someone who knows, like a brewer or bartender.

What Makes a Sour Beer Sour?

First, it’s important to understand that sour beers are ambiguous. We’ve previously written about how “sour beers” are uniquely difficult to categorize. They are equally difficult to make.

They comprise numerous styles crossing multiple regions of the globe and vary in alcohol and color. Their lone unifying characteristic: some offbeat flavor. A subjective variation of taste which exists on a spectrum from some-kind-of-odd funk, to an outright acid-like, vinegar flavor. However, it is there that we must focus on the notion of what makes a sour beer sour, because it is in the production process that you make the beer sour.


It should also go without saying that the dark alchemists of alcohol are far from finished expanding upon this list of style categories. With one of the 10 styles simply being “Wild Specialty Beer,” such a vague category simply begs to be broken up and clarified. But all in good time.

For now, we might be satisfied with the likes of lambic, fruit lambic, gueze, Flanders red, oud bruin, gose, Berliner Weisse, Brett beer, mixed-fermentation sour and wild specialty beer.

How Do I Know What to Pick or Where to Start?

These funky and sour beers are an acquired taste. No two ways about it. But if you never try it, the only thing you’ll guarantee is that you’ll never possibly come to appreciate it.

The best bet is to do your homework and look for a beer style that’s close to your favorite style. It’s fair to assume that if you don’t like red ales normally, a Flemish red might not be the best place to start. If you like a wheat beer, then try a gose. If you like German beers, try a Berliner Weisse. Don’t have a favorite? You’re perfect! Go ahead and dive in, see what happens.

- Analysis: What Makes a Sour Beer Sour? By Andrew Jockers,, July, 19, 2017.

3. Learning to win is an acquired taste at the pro sports level. Not everybody gets it.

Learning to lose can happen without you even knowing it.

And it can be a hard habit to break.

What we don’t know is whether the Mavericks are breaking in their younger players at crunch time of close games so they can learn from the experiences and someday be cold-blooded killers down the stretch of tight games.

Or are they just learning bad habits?

Learning to lose, in other words.

“The best way to learn is to be in those situations and play all these different teams,” Harrison Barnes said. “You have to get the experience. There’s no other way to do it. I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of learning to win versus learning to lose. It’s just going through those tough situations and building up a resilience so that when you get in those pressure situations you can handle it.”

Coach Rick Carlisle keeps a close watch on all his players and how they handle themselves when the pressure gets ratcheted up.

On Friday, they hooked up with the Chicago Bulls, who came in with one more win than the Mavericks’ 19. Combined, these teams are 40-85.

But they couldn’t both lose. And the Bulls didn’t, collecting a 108-100 victory as the Mavericks once again could not make plays with the game on the line.

It’s been that way all season, which is why it’s fair to wonder if this team is getting comfortable with its losing ways.

- If learning to win is an acquired taste, the Mavericks showed they're picky eaters in Chicago,, March 3, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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