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

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 20 15:26:05 EDT 2017


Also on the CNN site here:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/20/politics/empty-barrel-wilson-kelly

On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:24 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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
>> >> >
>> >>
>>
>

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