[Ads-l] Query from CNN: "An empty barrel makes the most sound."

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 20 12:01:52 EDT 2017


Rep. Wilson averred on CNN yesterday that the proverb is "racist."

She'd never heard it before, however.

JL

On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 11:31 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> There are various attributions of an earlier version of the proverb to
> Plato, often of the form, "As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they
> that have least wit are the greatest babblers." I can't find that in Plato,
> but Plutarch's "Morals" has: "Talkative people... resemble empty vessels,
> and go about making much noise."
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=8gTgAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA214
>
>
> On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 11:30 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
> adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > There is a pertinent entry in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of
> > Proverbs. The text below contains optical charactr recognition errors.
> > Also, the spelling in older entries is non-standard. So the text
> > should be double checked.
> >
> > [Begin excerpt]
> > EMPTY vessels make the most sound
> > Foolish or witless persons are the most talkative or noisy; also used
> > of achievement (see quot. 1932).
> > Vessel here means a receptacle, as a drinking-vessel.
> >
> > 1430 Pilgrimage of Man (EETS) l. 15933 A voyde vessel .. maketh
> > outward a gret soun, Mor than ..
> > what yt was ful.
> >
> > 1547 Treatise of Moral Philosophy IV. Q4 As emptye vesselles make the
> > lowdest sounde: so they that
> > haue least wyt, are the greatest babblers.
> >
> > 1599 Henry V IV. iv. 64 I did never know so full a voice issue from so
> > empty a heart: but the saying is true
> > —The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.
> >
> > 1707 Essay on Faculties of Mind I. 249 Empty Vessels sound loudest.
> >
> > 1932 Harbourmaster ii. ‘You think we don't show up too well in the
> > test?’.. ‘Oh, dear, no. It is the empty vessel that makes the most
> > noise.’
> >
> > 1967 English Proverbs Explained 51 Empty vessels make the most sound.
> >
> > 1982 Brock & Defector xiii. ‘All talk and no action ..’. ‘Empty
> > vessels make the most noise,’ Brock agreed.
> > [End excerpt]
> >
> > On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 11:09 AM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu>
> > wrote:
> > > Dear members of ads-l,
> > >
> > >
> > > Below my signoff is a request for assistance from CNN editor Chris
> > >
> > > Cillizza about "An empty barrel makes the most sound."  Can anyone
> > >
> > > provide him with any information?  Garson?
> > >
> > >
> > > Gerald Cohen
> > >
> > > cc. Barry Popik (with the extraordinary website barrypopik.com)
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ________________________________
> > > From: Cillizza, Chris <Chris.Cillizza at cnn.com>
> > > Sent: Friday, October 20, 2017 8:21 AM
> > > To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> > > Subject: Help!
> > >
> > >
> > > Professor Cohen,
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > I am trying to nail down the origins – and usages – of the phrase “an
> > empty barrel makes the most sound.”
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Trump chief of staff John Kelly used the phrase to describe Florida
> Rep.
> > Frederica Wilson on Thursday. On Friday, Congresswoman Wilson said the
> term
> > was “racist.”
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > I’m trying to navigate through the politics of all that to figure out
> > how the phrase entered the language and what it might mean.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Any guidance is much appreciated.
> > >
> > > Chris
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > >
> > > Chris Cillizza
> > >
> > > The Point
> > >
> > > CNN, Editor-at-large
> > >
> > > @cillizzacnn
> > >
> >
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>



-- 
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


More information about the Ads-l mailing list