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

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Fri Oct 20 15:09:29 UTC 2017

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 Cillizza

The Point

CNN, Editor-at-large


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

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