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Please go through the below excerpt from "The Story of My Life" from "Helen Keller"

I have met people so empty of joy, that when I clasped their frosty finger tips, it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart.

What kind of feeling is "empty of joy"?

Empty belongs to "Nothing". Joy belongs to "Something" with feelings. How come Nothing belongs to Something? Purely contradictory.

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closed as general reference by Andrew Leach, tchrist, Robusto, coleopterist, simchona Dec 11 '12 at 19:10

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Empty belongs to "Nothing". Joy belongs to "Something" with feelings. How come Nothing belongs to Something? Purely contradictory. That is an empty argument. What gives you the impression that empty "belongs to 'Nothing'"? Did you look up empty in a dictionary? Try this one (it lists eleven meanings for empty, including the one Ms. Keller is using here, listed at #8). –  J.R. Dec 11 '12 at 18:09
    
"Of" is not here being used to denote posession; the joy does not own the empty the way Susan owns a dog in "That dog of Susan's" (it would have to be "empty of joy's", and would make no sense. –  Yamikuronue Dec 11 '12 at 19:12
    
RE "closed as general reference" Can someone please cite the reference source in which it is stated that the construction "nothing of something" is valid, and how someone would be expected to look that up? This is definately a strange question, but I don't see how it's "general reference". –  Jay Dec 12 '12 at 15:12
    
@Jay: 'Void of certain specified contents; fig. devoid of certain specified qualities, etc.' (OED, empty, sense 2b). Not an unusual meaning. –  TimLymington Dec 12 '12 at 16:38
    
@TimLymington Hmm, but obviously the problem here is that the OP was unable to connect words like "specified contents" in such a definition to a "something quality" like "joy". I guess I'm objecting to the hair-trigger for closing questions on this site again. If someone looks up the definition of a word, but doesn't understand how to apply that definition in practice, then, yes, there is a sense in which the answer was available in a general reference. But if he didn't understand the dictionary defintion, telling him to read the dictionary definition doesn't help. –  Jay Dec 12 '12 at 20:28
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2 Answers 2

Hmm, I don't follow your reasoning. Yes, to say that something is "empty" means that there is nothing there. But "empty" means the absence of something. We routinely uses phrases like this in the literal sense, like "the vacuum pump emptied the air from the jar" or "we emptied the water from the bottle". Before there was something, say water. Now the water is gone, so it is empty.

So in this case, the writer is saying that some people who should have joy in their lives do not. They are "empty of joy".

It is an unusual phrasing. We don't normally say "empty of X", we say "does not have X" or "is missing X". It's probably intended to be somewhat poetic. But there's nothing nonsensical about it. (It is empty of nonsense!) We often say that something is "full of X", and I suspect the writer was trying to contrast with such statements. That is, while some people are "full of joy", others are "empty of joy".

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Not contradictory at all. Such people may be full of many things, bitterness, hatred and so on, but joy is not among them.

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