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

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 20 15:24:13 EDT 2017


Chris Cillizza quoted our discussion in his CNN newsletter, The Point:

http://mailchi.mp/cnn/john-kelly-called-frederica-wilson-an-empty-barrel-is-that-racist

Regarding ADS-L, he writes, "yes, this exists and is super cool."

--bgz


On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 1:14 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Kudos to all. Valuable information has been supplied on this thread.
> Ben's Plutarch citation is great. Stephen's instance of the "empty
> barrel" expression in 1835 is excellent. Here is version of the "empty
> barrel" figurative statement in 1816.
>
> Year: 1816
> Title: The Talents Run Mad, or, Eighteen hundred and sixteen: A
> Satirical Poem: In Three Dialogues
> Author: "By the author of 'All the talents'" (Eaton Stannard Barrett)
> Publisher: Printed for Henry Colburn, London
> Quote Page 58
> Database: HathiTrust
>
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951001999675w
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951001999675w?urlappend=%3Bseq=66
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> FRIEND.
> His tiny voice would prove his soul profound.
> An empty barrel makes a thund'ring sound.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
>
> 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


More information about the Ads-l mailing list