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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 20 16:21:43 EDT 2017


Dear ADS Mailing List and Chris.Cillizza,
  It is wonderful that Chris Cillizza relied on experts to explore the
meaning and history of the "empty barrel" saying. Determining the
origins of adages and quotations can be quite difficult.

Within a sidebar of his article, Cillizza referred to a humorous
remark that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain:
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and
remove all doubt". Unfortunately, there is no substantive evidence
that either luminary employed this expression.

The Quote Investigator website has an analysis here:
https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/05/17/remain-silent/

Garson O'Toole
QuoteInvestigator.com

On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:26 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
>>> >> >
>>> >>
>>>
>>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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