Pay Enough for Anything and It Passes for Taste

Sue Grafton? Kinsey Millhone? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A handbag with the logo of a top fashion company is quite expensive. The high cost functions as a marker of desirability. Here is a germane adage:

Pay enough for anything and it passes for taste.

This statement has been attributed to popular detective novelist Sue Grafton. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1992 Sue Grafton published “‘I’ is for Innocent”, a book in her top-selling alphabet series. The adage appeared within an internal monologue of the main character, private investigator Kinsey Millhone, while she was approaching an expensive house. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

My guess was that inside the floors would be aggregate concrete, with the plumbing and furnace ducts plainly visible and raw. Add some corrugated plastic panels and an atrium done up in wall-to-wall Astroturf and you’d have the kind of house Metropolitan Home might refer to as “assured,” “unsparing,” or “brilliantly iconoclastic.” “Unremittingly tacky” would also cover it. Pay enough for anything and it passes for taste.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1997 Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay published “‘G’ is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey Millhone”. The work included three quotations about wealth selected from “‘I’ is for Innocent”: 2

“It’s been my observation that the rich like to subdivide into the haves and the have-mores.” (I 63)

“We were in the section of Montebello known as the slums, where the houses only cost $280,000 each.” (I 93)

“Pay enough for anything and it passes for taste.” (I 61)

In April 2021 the email newsletter “Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week” from Mardy Grothe featured a profile of Sue Grafton together with a selection of ten of her quotations including the remark about taste. 3

In conclusion, Sue Grafton should receive credit for the statement she crafted and published in 1992.

(Great thanks Mardy Grothe whose email newsletter containing this quotation inspired this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1992, “I” is for Innocent by Sue Grafton, Chapter 5, Quote Page 61, Henry Holt and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1997, “G” is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey Millhone by Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay, Chapter 7: Social and Political Issues, Quote Page 223, A Marian Wood Book: Henry Holt and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  3. Email Newsletter: Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week, Title: This Week in History, Newsletter author: Mardy Grothe, Date within email: April 18 to April 24, 2021, Description: Weekly email sent to a group of quotation enthusiasts. (Received April 17, 2021) link