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For instance, it's easy to dismiss Larry Summers' worrying about inflation because he is always worried about inflation. On the other hand, Jerome Powell expressing concern about inflation would be considered more alarming because he's more balanced about things.

Is there a word or phrase to express this in English?

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  • 1
    because they don't always say something = reticent (and its many synonyms). That's not at all the same thing as saying someone is balanced in their opinions. Reticent people say little or nothing (often because they don't want to get involved in arguments or be forced to "pick sides", not because they don't have strong opinions). People who have "balanced" opinions would often speak at length about what they think (often, all they're really trying to do is agree with everyone, even if that makes no sense). Which situation are you trying to describe? May 22, 2021 at 18:05
  • Well, Powell is nonetheless criticized for underestimating possible inflation risks by a number of commenters.
    – user 66974
    May 22, 2021 at 18:08
  • Summers and Powell are in different situations. Summers is not at present in a policy-making position, whereas Powell is, so a change in what he says foretells policy change.
    – Xanne
    May 22, 2021 at 21:33
  • Yeah, the title change wasn't what I wanted. As for Powell being a policy-maker, that's a fair point, but I'm sure there are plenty of inflation doves that aren't policy makers. The current title is good. May 23, 2021 at 15:37
  • Are you looking for a colorful phrase, or for a plain dictionary adjective? 'Unbiased' is actually the most accurate here. A particular bias may be relevant for each of your examples. But you may be thinking of a particular word/phrase in your native language - what is that? Don't worry about biasing us with it - it's better to have some knowledge than none at all.
    – Mitch
    May 24, 2021 at 18:27

4 Answers 4

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The opposite of 'Empty vessels make the most sound.'

One answer is 'Still waters run deep.'

still waters run deep

A quiet person may be very profound, as in

  • Susie rarely says much, but still waters run deep.

[The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer]

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For a phrase, the boy who cried wolf is fitting (describing Larry Summers in this case):

Someone who claims that something is happening when it really isn't, which results in the rejection of subsequent valid claims. The expression comes from one of Aesop's fables, in which a young shepherd lies about a wolf threatening his flock so many times that people do not believe him when he and his flock are in legitimate danger. — Farlex

But it's not just an idiom, it's also a snowclone: the X who cried Y. For example:

The Boy Who Cried Inflation:
Persistent warnings about rising inflation have proved to be false alarms. Could this time be different?

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  • Something like this is what I wanted, but not quite. May 23, 2021 at 15:35
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I find the example of bias unhelpful at best, but in many circumstances the unbiased protagonist might be described as:

“A disinterested party”

i.e. someone with no material or reputational interest in a matter.

I provide this example, not merely to illustrate the reason for not impoverishing the language by using ‘disinterested’ to mean ‘uninterested’, but because it offers a different shade of meaning from ‘unbiased’.

A person of authority of extreme virtue can be unbiased yet have a personal stake in the outcome of a judgement, e.g. the semi-legendary Lucius Junius Brutusunbiased but not disinterested. A prejudiced judge could, for example, be racial biased, but gain no advantage from condemning someone unjustly — disinterested, but biased.

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"Man [sic] of few words" can carry the implication that those few words are more meaningful than the many words of someone overly talkative.

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  • 'Of few words' simply means "not given to saying much; taciturn" (lexico) - nothing is implied about the value of those few words.
    – Joachim
    May 23, 2021 at 15:54
  • Normally sic or sic, rather than SIC.
    – David
    May 24, 2021 at 21:56
  • 1
    thanks, I've learned something. May 25, 2021 at 4:45

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