(used as a proverb to assert that everything has a cost, hidden or otherwise)
A long-established maxim, used widely in various genres (especially economics), but associated in SF with Robert Heinlein, whose use of it in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress spread the term throughout SF fandom.
For a discussion of the history of the full phrase, see the Quote Investigator’s discussion.
[acronym < there ain't no such thing as a free lunch]
Tanstaafl: A Plan for a New Economic World Order.
'"Oh, "tanstaafl." Means "There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch." And isn’t,' I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across room, 'or these drinks would cost half as much.'
TANSTAAFL, my friend. ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’ Magical energy has to come from somewhere.
Jerry Pournelle has said that he and his father 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.
Last modified 2020-12-27 10:28:08
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.