Talk:There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

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Confusing attribution[edit]

This article credits both Heinlein and Friedman. Is Friedman the originator of the adage, and Heinlein the originator of the acronym? If so, that should be made more clear. --DropDeadGorgias (talk) 18:32, Jan 7, 2005 (UTC)

If LaGuardia used the phrase in 1934, it clearly predates both Heinlein and Friedman...though if the mayor first used it in Latin, we might wonder who the first user/translator of the English version was. In any event, could someone produce the original Latin version? It doesn't seem to be easily locatable on the Internet. Thanks immensely! 21:31, 15 May 2005 (UTC) (Dpr)
From searching, it appears that the Latin phrase should be "Nullum Gratuitum Prandium". But I have no way of knowing if that is the version used by Fiorello LaGuardia. It would be helpful if someone could find and provide the context and references for this claim. --Academician 08:20, 19 July 2005 (UTC)
That Latin phrase does say the same thing, but there are any number of ways to translate it into English and TANSTAAFL is a particularly effective way of expressing the idea. I think the first person to use that English version deserves just as much credit as the person who coined the Latin one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Simon Slavin (talkcontribs) 04:16, 3 February 2006 UTC

After reading the second sentence, I thought Heinlein was the originator of this phrase. If he isn't the originator, why is another usage listed here? I would think the second sentence should be moved to the history and usage section. (talk) 21:21, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

I think this was confused somewhat by the recent rewriting and move from TANSTAAFL as the root article, previously (which made more sense, IMO, as the precise wording did not appear until relatively late and, as provided, the acronym is actually more readily "recognisable", I'd've thought). In the process, that's also added in at least one factual error about the acronym dating back to the 1930s, too. Harami2000 (talk) 00:44, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
What changes do you want made to the article exactly?Prezbo (talk) 01:04, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the rapid response: I was going to reassess once the article edits had stabilised but was somewhat sidetracked at the wrong time and only checked back following's comment above.
The usage origins of the actual TANSTAAFL acronym and later TINSTAAFL are no now longer clear since the article emphasis switched over to the full form, both in that specific and generic/related wording. The reference to Heinlein in the lead is also now somewhat vacuous vs. previous article forms (e.g. & for several years previously) which were more specific to Heinlein's plot whilst leaving "blank" the use of TANSTAAFL as an interjection - preferable to the current phrasing which nebulously states that both "phrase and the acronym are central" (somehow equivalent?) within the book. Harami2000 (talk) 01:40, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
I don't know, if you want to add more information about the role the acronym plays in the book you can. I guess I did throw the baby out with the bathwater there. The old article said that the acronym "originated in the late 1930s" without backing that up with a citation, so I removed that; same with the sentence about libertarians and science fiction fans. The article emphasis has to be on the phrase rather than the acronym because that's where the emphasis is placed by reliable sources, and I don't think the acronym is notable enough for an independent article.Prezbo (talk) 02:04, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. :) The previous lead wording was that the acronym stood for the adage which arose in the late 1930s, not that the acronym itself was first coined then. Admittedly the whole article did need a degree of rework so I was more than happy to step back to see what you'd bring to that with a fresh pair of eyes.
aside: Do you have a wiki guidance reference for article naming being reliant on frequency of reliable sources vs. frequency of use (TANSTAAFL was overwhelmingly the most common form of usage/access method to WP prior to the article title shift; q.v. vs. ), since finding WP policy on such matters ain't always easy! (POSMAAE?) Cheers, David. Harami2000 (talk) 02:32, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

There's Wikipedia:Naming conventions. I think the full phrase (or variants) is much more common than the acronym in written/spoken use, though.Prezbo (talk) 02:49, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

Friedman's book is "There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch" rather than the long-version of Heinlein's "popularised" acronym: neither was original, of course, but I wouldn't like to guess which was more common usage. Wasn't so much of an issue when TANSTAAFL was the root article (90%+ of accesses and easiest to find) but now that both long variants have been shoe-horned into the lead it seems that the "need" to explain and contextualise the alternatives up-front has become somewhat confusing; e.g. "free-market economist Milton Friedman also popularized the phrase" necessitates the alternate being given in full rather than having TANSTAAFL as an overarching concept that's described in greater detail within the body of the article as was the case previously.
I wouldn't be surprised if there was further guidance in the depths of discussion outwith Wikipedia:Naming conventions in a similar manner to the "rule" (decided and acted upon by a tiny number of people) for not having default photos on bios is hidden away here, rather than on the general bio outline/guidance pages. WP can be /very/ frustrating when tricks like that happen 1,000-fold! :)
I'll try to set aside a few contiguous hours to have a good read through this article within the current framework but I'm a notoriously slow worker at the best of times, alas, and backlogged badly IRL. Thanks again; and for the discussion, David. Harami2000 (talk) 05:08, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
If Friedman's book - which I've never heard of BTW, but IANAE :) - is "There's no such thing..." and yet the article is "There ain't no such thing..." surely he should be demoted to merely popularising a _variant_ of the term _amongst_ _economists_? I don't consider myself qualified to make such a decision however as I own the Heinlein book. We need neutral referees.Number774 (talk) 23:08, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
"Ain't no such thing" and "is no such thing" are basically the same thing and are both common. You can't really popularize one without popularizing the other. The source says that "The economist Milton Friedman popularized it in the name of a 1975 book," not that he popularized it among economists.Prezbo (talk) 23:37, 29 November 2009 (UTC)
Looking at the references they all seem to refer to the phrase in the Heinlein version - ain't, not is - as follows: "WHO COINED "THERE AIN'T NO SUCH thing as a free lunch"? ... The economist Milton Friedman popularized it in the name of a 1975 book, but frequently disclaims coinage" and "The first law says that "There ain't no free lunch"". Where are the popular uses of "is"? That source could be wrong! Number774 (talk) 18:29, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
(A little later) I just noticed David Harimi2000's link to the stats page. TANSTAAFL beats TINSTAAFL in requests by several orders of magnitude. I really think Milton should get the chop here!Number774 (talk) 18:37, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

What do you want to do exactly? The acronym is a different (and less notable) thing than the phrase, so those stats aren't very relevant. Some sources refer to Friedman's version initially.[1][2][3][4] The article could say more about Friedman's close association with this phrase than it does, as it is it probably gives Heinlein too much coverage and Friedman not enough.Prezbo (talk) 03:19, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Some cites[edit]

  • "Rick Hauptmann located on this Yale website an article about quotations that includes this comment: 'Mr. Shapiro's research unearthed a 1952 mention in the journal Ethics, which referred to Professor Alvin Hansen's "famous TINSTAAFL formula - `There is no such thing as a free lunch.'"' Jeff Prucher located this cite and submitted it. We would like to know if the phrase can be further antedated in Hansen's own writings.
Jerry Pournelle has said that he and his father[Edward Pournelle?] both used the phrase as early as the 1930's. His father was a radio personality and made up a number of slogans and jingles, but Pournelle does not know whether his father made up the phrase or not." [5]
  • "TANSTAAFL was my father's, transmitted from me to Robert Heinlein and used by him, as acknowledged in letters both to me and to reviewers." [6]
  • "Despite the claims of rabid science fiction fans, this bit of folk wisdom has been with us since the late 1940s. And the term free lunch is even older. The term free lunch first appeared in print on 23 November 1854, in Wide West published in San Francisco. It is a reference to the practice of saloons giving free meals to attract clientele. Of course the savings is illusory as the price of the drinks subsidizes the food. The exact phrase, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, is also first used in the city by the bay in the 1 June 1949 edition of the San Francisco News (although this is claimed to be a reprint of a 1938 editorial so it may be even older, but the original has not been found). The science fiction fans come into the picture in 1966 with the publication of Robert Heinlein's novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He did much to popularize the phrase, but as we have seen did not coin it. Some claim that he coined the acronym TANSTAAFL. But alas for those science fiction fans, even this is not true. TANSTAAFL is found as far back as October 1949, only a few months after the earliest appearance of the phrase."
Shapiro, a linguistic cyber-sleuth, historical lexicographer, lecturer in legal research at Yale University, and editor of the forthcoming Yale Dictionary of Quotations figured out that a 1952 article in the journal Ethics about nationalizing industries, attributes the saying to "Professor Alvin Hansen in his famous TINSTAAFL formula - 'There is no such thing as a free lunch.'" (Professor Hansen was a prominent economist and professor at Harvard University.)" [7]

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Wwoods (talkcontribs) 18:59, 20 July 2005 UTC

  • My understanding of the orgin of the statement There is no free lunch is as follows. Before emmigrating to the US in the 1800's, europeans heard stories of how wine flowed freely in the streets, there was free lunch for everyone, and so on. After landing in the states and being here for a while, a kindly old man was asked what he thought of America - the reply came back: There is no free lunch. This was published, and the rest is history. PS. I was born in 1949 and probably heard the story related on TV sometime in the 1950's. I'm astonished that this explanation isn't present here. j.miller.

Jake Falstaff a.k.a. Herman Fetzer[edit]

In a 1949 editorial for The Star, the "Economics in Eight Words" tale is reprinted based on a story by Jake Falstaff in the Cleveland Press, sometime in 1938. Other references include the El Paso Herald-Post on June 27, 1938; the Pittsburgh Press on July 5, 1938; the San Francisco News by journalist Walter Morrow on June 1, 1949 (that references an editorial reprint also from 1938); and the Pittsburgh Press again on March 13, 1958. In 1938, the Scripps-Howard Newspaper chain published: the El Paso Herald-Post, the Pittsburgh Press, the Star Publishing Company, and the Cleveland Press. But not until August 9, 1959 was the San Francisco News partly owned by Scripps-Howard. The tale was "first published in the Scripps-Howard Newspapers" in 1938, which, evidentially, is incorrect. Jake Falstaff was a nom de plume for Herman Fetzer. William C. Barrow (Cleveland State University) found an envelope of clippings about Falstaff, which mostly contained books being published postmortem after Falstaff's death in 1935, at the age of 35. Thangalin (talk) 20:44, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Life itself is a free lunch[edit]

There is a free lunch from the point of view of babies at their mother's breast. There are free lunches from the point of view of the poor attending a soup kitchen. There is a free lunch for the inheritor of wealth. There is a free lunch with every oxygen filled breath. Life itself is a free lunch. The only truth in the saying is that things have causes and consequences; and you can always find an excuse to not help someone less well off. 13:10, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

None of those things you mention are truly free - they all have costs and consequences. Mothers expect devotion and obedience from their children in exchange for their upbringing. The poor in soup kitchens bear the consequences of their actions as well - in the form of a dependency on generosity, and outcast from society. Inheritors of wealth usually must stay in the good graces of those from whom they have inherited - and keeping wealth takes work as well. Oxygen is ultimately not free - it comes from plants, and if we were to destroy all plantlife we would discover just how precious oxygen was.
Life is not free, either - it takes constant maintenance, as you mention, through breathing, through eating, through work on the part of one's self and on the part of everyone else. You simply do not understand the phrase - its purpose is to point out that one should never expect to receive anything gratis, there will always be a price, even if it is not monetary. It is a refutation of the childish expectation to have life served on a silver platter, to have things that have COSTS provided to one just because one is there. Nothing in life is ultimately free - everything is paid for in some way. --Academician 01:40, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
Yes and no, Academician. While "no free lunches" can refer to the idea of accounting costs, its purpose really lies in explaining why there are always opportunity costs. Engaging in one action prevents you from engaging in another. When the baby consumes milk from the breast, it can't consume something else using the resources it just used (like time and energy). Economists care about scarcity and when there is scarcity, there are always opportunity costs.--Atlastawake 06:30, 25 November 2005 (UTC)
How does TANSTAAFL apply to Heinlein providing financial aid to struggling writers? -- LamontCranston 07:18, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

Conflicting statements on the same page[edit]

I removed the second paragraph because it looks at the issue from microeconomics level instead of macroeconomics level. This is supported by the use of the word "outside" on the said paragraph. It also conflict with the paragraph above it.

This may be controversial, but if anyone insist on putting it back, give an example of how removing "outside forces" may lead to macroeconomics efficiency (Who will obsorb negative externalities etc). That would be the only fair way to accept it. There is an example to government involvement theorem, why not offer a counter example of free market that can withstand critical analysis.

Though it is possible for an individual to get a "free lunch" (as when a company cuts its costs and gains competitive advantage by polluting the air), someone ends up paying the cost of the "lunch." Even though there is no individual or private cost, there is a social cost. Similarly, someone can benefit for free from a beneficial externality or from a public good. But someone has to pay the cost of producing these benefits.

Advocates of the TANSTAAFL principle believe markets are efficient unless due to interference by the government or other "outside" forces. The free market is seen as the solution to issues such as pollution.

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Wk muriithi (talkcontribs) 15:26, 29 December 2005 UTC

libertarian utopia?[edit]

Um, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was not about a libertarian utopia, unless I completely mis-read that book. It was about a former penal colony on the verge of collapse. Perhaps that statement should be removed from the article, as it is rather a matter of opinion (and somewhat irrelevant to the article anyway).--Paul 18:00, 26 January 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. Change made as you suggest 20060203. Remove this section whenever you want. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Simon Slavin (talkcontribs) 04:16, 3 February 2006 UTC


How is the acronym tanstaafl pronounced when it stands as a lowercase word, like in the citations mentioned on the page? Letter by letter, or like a separate word? I guess it's the former, but I'm not sure. Sorry for the question; I'm not a native English speaker. If you deem it worthy, you could include it in the article. Adam78 22:57, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I've always pronounced the whole word - it sounds pretty much like ordinary English or maybe Dutch, and the spelling looks Dutch to us ignorant Americans. tan as in suntan, st as in stanford, awful as in my explanation: tan-st-awful —Preceding unsigned comment added by Smallbones (talkcontribs) 08:35, 17 February 2006 UTC
Thank you, I've long been wondering that myself! -TMorrisey
I've always pronounced it 'tanstaffle' myself (rhyming with "baffle", rather than with "waffle").
—wwoods 19:23, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
This is how I've always heard it. RobertAustin 15:32, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
I've always pronounced it (and heard it pronounced by people from all over the US) as "tahn'-stahf-l", i.e., both as as in "yawn", and the f as part of the second syllable, not the third. I'm actually surprised to see that people pronounce it differently. Learn something every day, I guess :-) —Ryan McDaniel 20:34, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree with George Wilson, in my humble opinion the best American male audiobook narrator ever, in his renditions of Heinlein's novels The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. He pronounces it like Ryan says above, but with accents evenly on the first two syllables: "tahn'-stahf'-l" (maybe even favoring the second a bit). ~ Jeff Q (talk) 00:30, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Actual Free Lunches[edit]

Wasn't there a tradition of bars literally offering free-lunches as a means to get people to drink more (I believe the Beef on Wyck in Buffalo started out this way)? Isn't that really the origin of the concept? The article seems to vaguely reference the idea that bars offered free food, but if it was the tradition of free lunches that inspired the phrase TANSTAAFL (and really, I've never heard it mentioned as an acronymn, but I guess enough people have) then I think it should be more clearly stated. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 18:49, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

FWIW, the most common spelling in Buffalo is "weck," though some are said to pronounce it "wick" or (I suppose) "wyck." Wikipedia seems to prefer "weck" (Kummelweck).

I can neither confirm nor deny whether the sandwich was ever served for free in Buffalo as a marketing scheme.

--Martin X. Moleski, SJ 00:33, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Is the Universe a free lunch?

I think about a year or so ago NPR had a story about over fishing and said that fishing was so great in the 1800's that fish roe became a worthless byproduct and was given away at bars much like peanuts.If I find it I will let you know.Septagram (talk) 02:24, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Upton Sinclair in The Jungle wrote of free lunches in Chicago saloons about 1900 if a drink was bought. --Yopienso (talk) 08:15, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

Foreign legislation[edit]

I live in Sweden. Here it is aginst the law to use the word free ("gratis") for marketing purposes. Unless, of course, what you offer really is free and without obligation of any kind. Therefore we see the phrase included ("på köpet", lit: on the buy) a lot in ads. 09:29, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

Mother and child analogy[edit]

I have edited the second paragraph of the details, which previously said:

"...some may argue that mothers often provide their children with lunch at no cost. But that food still had to be produced by someone somewhere, so even though the cost is not paid by the children themselves, it is still paid by someone. Indeed, it might be argued that the mother's body pays the cost of the child's meal."

This could easily be interpreted to suggest that the mothers are prostitutes! To rectify this, I corrected the paragraph to talk about breast-feeding as a "free lunch".

-- Sasuke Sarutobi 19:14, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Tinstaafl, etc.[edit]

I'm astounded at the bad taste of people who use "tinstaafl", and the [citation needed] was well called for. But looking it up on Google gave 10,600 hits (none of whom I'd want to introduce my sister to). The citations tag on the first section is also proper and it seems that there are many definitions of this or that people just use it in many ways. A few citations on these would be good. Perhaps this might even result in better organization. Smallbones 17:50, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for sourcing this. Given that "ain't" has been in Merriam-Webster since the nineteen-sixties and had a quite respectable usage history before that, people who object to it, particularly in an informal or jocular context, are being deliberately pedantic. Actually I remember in the sixties serious discussion of what could be used as a short form for "am not" given that "ain't" was banned. "Amn't" was suggested but, obviously, never caught on. Dpbsmith (talk) 19:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I encountered "TINSTAAFL" in a 9th-grade Economics book. Pissed me off. I told the students (I'm a teacher) the true acronym, gave several examples, and lambasted the textbook publisher for their spinelessness. RobertAustin 15:29, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Only dumb Americans use ain't in this context Nil Einne (talk) 18:04, 22 October 2008 (UTC)


For the linguists reading the article, I'm including TANJ in the See Also section. It's another acronym popularised by science fiction authors, meaning "There Ain't No Justice". Fortunately, no one's tried to introduce TINJ. It doesn't particularly relate to the concept of the term, but I would consider it etymologically enough related. The TANJ article also links to TANSTAAFL. samwaltz 20:44, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Incomplete sentence?[edit]

I can't parse this clause which ends the first paragraph: "someone else has to or the bar will go out of business and demand." Is "demand" an object of the preposition "of"? What would it mean for a bar to "go out of ... demand"? Or is demand a predicate in parallel with "go out of business"? In that case, what is it that the bar would be demanding?

--Martin X. Moleski, SJ 00:38, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

It was a run on sentence, and a simplistic illustration of how the costs are recouped. Saying the bar would go out of business if customers didnt purchase items doesnt account for other ways of distributing the costs, such as entry fees, pool competition entry fees, higher prices after the end of happy hour, increased tips to waiters, etc. I think the point is driven home more appropriate with a blunt ending: the bar-owner must recover that expense somehow. John Vandenberg 01:16, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Removed merge proposal[edit]

On the Free lunch talk page everybody was against it.

Smallbones (talk) 18:39, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Agree, but should be removed![edit]

I can't bring myself to do it. The following should be removed as pure editorial comment, even though it is correct! Smallbones (talk) 13:09, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

"On the other hand, human beings are by nature irrationally altruistic. For example, they improve Wikipedia despite experiencing little or no personal gain. The end result is a free lunch for Wikipedia readers."
Removed unnecessary and non-encyclopedic commentary. -- Rydra Wong (talk) 16:23, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

conservation of energy[edit]

no mention of the law of conservation of energy or resources in this case?

Tom Daschle Adds New Meaning[edit]

Do you supposed that Tom Daschle has added a new meaning? There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Limo -- Mac Riada (talk) 01:50, 5 February 2009 (UTC)


For one, "there ain't no" = "there is", at least if we're talking about proper English and not slang.

Second, there is such a thing as a "free lunch". If I offer breakfeast to a friend at no fee, it was free to him. Of course, it cost me something, but it was free to him. The word "free" has a perfectly valid meaning in our vocabulary and it can be used to describe the state of something such as a "lunch". Here is the definition:

provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment: free parking; a free sample.
given without consideration of a return or reward: a free offer of legal advice.

It seems rather silly to argue that there is no such thing as a free lunch. -- (talk) 08:40, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

For better or worse, sayings don't require to be grammatically correct and this one (and its acronym) has been passed down "by the book" - per . Not sure I'd go quite as far as though, in usage terms. :) Cheers, David. Harami2000 (talk) 03:22, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" = "There Isn't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" = "There Is Free Lunch," thus the professor was advising in favor of mercy. Therefore my edit was good and ZimZalaBim's removal of it I disagree with. I was correcting the article. --Chuck (talk) 03:27, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Chuck, your attempts to logically translate the slang expression aside, the expression is "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", so please don't change it or suggest it is being "misunderstood". Your edits were unconstructive. --ZimZalaBim talk 04:16, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Agreed with User:ZimZalaBim. There ain't no "misunderstanding" here. Colloquial usage does not render the reader or listener incapable of understanding the intention; which, in this case, is a deliberate use of double negative to mean negative not positive - a far from unique occurrence in the English language.
The scan referenced above (original 1949 source for the acronym, as far as is known) makes it perfectly clear that "There Is Free Lunch" is /not/ the intention. Regards, David. Harami2000 (talk) 05:16, 30 March 2009 (UTC)


I’m adding, “Depending on the sentence, ain’t means aren’t, isn’t, or am not.[1] Two negatives in a sentence gives a positive meaning. Double negatives to mean a negative is not standard[2] or what most people mean.[3]. “Ain’t no” isn’t the same as “There’s no.” Some of this article has confused two different expressions. The “ain’t no” term does not agree with there being a cost to everything. The writer’s source may have used it introduce the subject, but I doubt it said the term agreed with it. --Chuck (talk) 08:12, 30 March 2009 (UTC)

Chuck, see the above comments by multiple editors. Please stop inserting this reference and editorializing. This is a colloquial phrase. --ZimZalaBim talk 11:47, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Chuck, you are engaging in original research (substituting your interpretation of the phrase for what it actually means) disrupting this article, and your command of the English language is faulty. To wit:
in phrase ain't no (or nothing): There is not any(thing). -- Dictionary of American Regional English, Page 28
Per the above dictionary, "There ain't no such thing" is equivalent to "There is no such thing." Raul654 (talk) 14:41, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
You're wrong. "Ain't no such thing" is equivalent to "Is not no such thing." Ain’t means aren’t, isn’t, or am not.--Chuck (talk) 17:47, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
No, Chuck, it is colloquial slang, and not meant to be analyzed according to strict grammatical logic. --ZimZalaBim talk 18:07, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
The slang means what the words mean, and not the opposite.--Chuck (talk) 18:16, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
"Ain't No" is an idiom. It cannot be further parsed into constituent words, which is exactly what you are (wrongly) trying to do. That is why the dictionary gives exactly the opposite meaning that you do. And I trust the dictionary a lot more than I trust your word on the subject. Raul654 (talk) 18:27, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Webster's unabridged says ain't means: are not, is not, am not, have not and has not. "Ain't no" is not in Webster's or the idiom dictionary I own. There are two sayings. One begins "There is no" and the other begins "There ain't no." The sayings are disagreeing with each other. Also, an idiom is a metaphor, like "chicken's come home to roost."--Chuck (talk) 18:51, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
"Ain't no" is not in Webster's or the idiom dictionary I own. - Sorry Chuck, but the lack of inclusion of that idiom in your dictionaries does not mean it doesn't exist, and does not mean you can simply define it as you choose. It *is* in the dictionary I already cited. It's also in this one as (under "Ain't no thang", which is defined as "Is not a big deal"), and here ('Aint no joke' is defined as 'I am serious', i.e, equivalent to 'is not a joke').
At this point, it's becoming extremely difficult to assume you are editing in good faith. If yon continue to pursue this matter, I'm going to report your conduct on the administrator's noticeboard. Raul654 (talk) 19:24, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
This is beyond silly. "Ain't no" isn't a double negative, it's an emphatic negative. Idiom isn't bound by the rules of formal logic. For a few other examples of this usage, consider
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone. / It's not warm when she's away.
There ain't no mountain high enough / Ain't no valley low enough / Ain't no river wide enough / To keep me from getting to you
I Ain't No Quitter
Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now
This ain't no party / This ain't no disco
—WWoods (talk) 19:39, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Oh . . . I guess you're right. Now I know what ain't ain't in the dictionary. --Chuck (talk) 20:13, 30 March 2009 (UTC)

Article should be located at the phrase itself, not the acronym[edit]

The phrase is much more common. I'll try to change this tomorrow if no one objects.Prezbo (talk) 21:05, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Surely this is vandalism?[edit]

Rudyard Kipling, writing in 1891, noted how he came upon a bar room full of bad Salon pictures is the second line after the lede and table of contents. Surely this is vandalism? --Yopienso (talk) 08:18, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

No, it wasn't, but I was unable to insert this online text. Yopienso (talk) 08:34, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

Early Use of TANSTAAFL[edit]

The paragraph below is from ‘’The Phrase Finder’’ at I’m not sure about the copyright implications and how much of the text one could use so I’ll leave it for someone more knowledgeable.

The 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch' version of the phrase is often reduced to the acronym TANSTAAFL. This is widely associated with the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. he did used the term several times in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but the coinage of the acronym pre-dates that by at least a quarter of a century. The earliest citation I can find for tanstaafl is from October 1949, when it appeared in a book review published in several US newspapers, including The Independent Record: Now, our secret: Tanstaafl is mnemonic for "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Dinoceras (talk) 15:10, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's Italian sentence "È finita la cuccagna" should have no place in this article, as "cuccagna" does not mean "free lunch" in Italian. It means "bonanza, lucky situation, Cloud Cuckoo Land" -- whatever. It may make sense to translate it as Caro did, but only by way of approximation. I'm uncapable of editing it out but IMHO they who can do so, should.Pan Brerus (talk) 18:23, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No consensus, not moved (non-admin closure) DavidLeighEllis (talk) 02:54, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

There ain't no such thing as a free lunchThere's no such thing as a free lunch – While I don't doubt that the current, more colloquial form has usage, this more grammatically correct form has become more common. Compare over two million results for "There's no such thing as a free lunch" -wikipedia to under a million for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" -wikipedia. Some of the former results are specifically referring to Milton Friedman's book of the same name, but I think it had so much to do with the popularity of this phrase that it must be seen as having shaped usage. The proposed form is also dominant in Google Books, Google Scholar, and JSTOR. A personal rule of thumb for me is that if a form is more common in those four searches, it should be our title absent something really compelling, like naming conventions. If the phrase only appeared in the "ain't" form until Freedman came along, it might be different, but reading over the article, both forms have been around for about as long. BDD (talk) 18:55, 28 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Support For grammatical reasons (double negative) although I recognize that this may be a WP:ENGVAR situation (Southern American English or Cockney).--Labattblueboy (talk) 05:30, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose the current form is more 'encyclopedic'. Regularization of slang loses the punch of the original, as the slang form is emphasis, and the indicated derived forms use "ain't" . Of the abbreviations, only "TANSTAAFL" has any currency, putting doubt into the regularization. "TANSTAAFL" 480k , "TNSTAAFL" 11k , "TINSTAAFL" 44k -- (talk) 05:40, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There's no need—there really ain't—to "correct" the English usage in this expression, which has taken on a life of its own thanks to Heinlein and others. Our mission is to report and describe, not to be the grammar police. Let's not dull something colorful—and valid. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.". Hertz1888 (talk) 06:00, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose for the same reasons as the others. Plus, because of the way their algorithm works, and what the results really mean, Google search hit counts don't necessarily mean it's measuring common usage. I'm sympathetic to Friedman, but Heinlein should win out on this one. -- Randy2063 (talk) 22:18, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
  • ? Support as per WP:RS Red Slash 04:24, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Support the proposed name flows better grammatically and doesn't make my head spin when reading it.JOJ Hutton 18:53, 31 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose grammar policing. Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:20, 31 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Since the common abbreviation is still TANSTAAFL. -- Necrothesp (talk) 13:19, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Alledged use as political bribery?[edit]

So many sections here already. Just read an article [in counterpunch] claiming it was a kind of political bribery. Although i have no doubt they would twist the meaning even if true, i am skeptical. However, can't just dismiss it either. (talk) 17:25, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

  1. ^ Hacker, D. 1991. The Bedford Handbook for Writers. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, Inc. Page, 660
  2. ^ Hacker, D. 1991. The Bedford Handbook for Writers. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, Inc. Pages, 664-665
  3. ^ Hacker, D. 1991. The Bedford Handbook for Writers. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, Inc. Page, 181