Uses of the phrase dating back to the 1930s and 1940s have been found, but the phrase’s first appearance is unknown. The “free lunch” in the saying refers to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a “free lunch” in order to entice drinking customers.
Back a million years ago (1995) when I started working for The Bank, we were treated to a free holiday lunch of steak and potatoes and a fantastic cake. And it was wicked cool. As years went by, it drifted downhill to things like dry chicken (which one year gave a bunch of people food poisoning) and a cake made out of sugar and nothing yummy. Now at DreamHost, we get a really lovely meal with a chef on site and wonderful noms for everyone. Including special sandwiches for the “Night Shit” (someone made a typo this year, we all laughed).
But for me, the day a company says it’s a special meal day any time in November is automatically TANSTAAFL Day.
Happy TANSTAAFL Day, DreamHost!