This week's obituary in The Economist is devoted to Deate S. Gordon, a bilingual lady that helped to write the Japanese Constitution after the war. She produced Article 24, about equality of the sexes, and managed to keep that article against stern opposition, a feat only revealed by her when she wrote a memoir in 1995. And then The Economist goes:

"After that, she was full of it."

I guessed that they mean she was (rightly) proud of it, but just to be sure I checked out several dictionaries. To my surprise, "full of it" means "full of shit" or "full of crap", i.e. "completely wrong, false, or worthless" (Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms). No mention of being proud of something. I'm sure The Economist didn't mean "she was full of crap". Now I'm puzzled.

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    Oh my. Such a poor choice of words for an obituary! IMHO, "full of it" is much too casual, no matter which interpretation, for a formal article such as that. It would have been so much more respectful to say, "of which she mentioned often with justifiable pride". Tsk tsk! to the obit writer! Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 21:15
  • @Kristina Lopez. Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to know that a native can find the sentente inappropriate.
    – Albertus
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


The full text of the paragraph identifies the antecedent:

Immersed in all this, and aware that her post-war work had been secret, she never mentioned her constitution-drafting until 1995, when she wrote a memoir. After that, she was full of it. Yet, when all was said and done, she did not think Article 24 was the most important clause in Japan’s post-war constitution. That honour, she said, belonged to Article 9, under which Japan renounced war and embraced peace. And hers was second.

Initially, she was silent on her role in drafting Japan's constitution. Her life lacked any mention of this contribution. In 1995, she wrote a memoir. Following that, her conversation would regularly include references to "it," meaning her contributions.

Agreed, the text is not great - I'm assuming an earlier draft of the obituary had a more directly stated antecedent - but it is still discernible from context. Indeed, absent a clear antecedent, it does seem like she was full of crap, but the rest of the article doesn't really fit if that's the case.

  • Thanks for your answer. So you agree with Barrie England.
    – Albertus
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:28
  • I do - but I figured going to the original source would add clarification. Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:44
  • This doesn't answer the question. What does full of it mean and how is it being used in that context? Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:56
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    Wrong question. The idiom full of it is not being used here; the idiom or collocation full of is being used, with it in this case not the delexical variant but referring back to Gordon's 'Article 24', as Affable says. He also points out that sufficient context is needed if sensible analysis is going to be possible. Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 9:31

It would be necessary to read the article in full to be sure, but it probably means that she never stopped talking about it.

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    It's an obituary, wrote in praise of the lady in question. Your answer makes sense, and I'm sure you're right, it's just that I find it strange that no dictionary mentions that "full of it" can be used in a non-derogatory sense.
    – Albertus
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:25
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    @Albertus. It is derogatory. Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:45
  • I find it strange that you claim to have read every dictionary ever compiled. Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 19:59
  • @Edwin Ashworth. I claim nothing of that sort. Read my question.
    – Albertus
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 9:04
  • You need 'none of the dictionaries I checked' then. Try the dictionaries I suggest - dig a little deeper. Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 19:39

Full of it here doesn’t necessarily mean full of shit or talking rubbish.

Full of it can also refer to someone who talks themselves up or try and make out they’re far more important than they actually are. In other words full of themselves or full of their own self importance and to support that will go on and on about their one main achievement in life, here the Article 24.

It’s mostly coloquial, used in everyday speech.


There are relevant dictionary entries:

full (9) (postpositive; foll by of) occupied or engrossed (with) full of his own projects

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

(also at AHDEL)


The lady's name was Beate, not Deate.

Full of it, idiomatically, is used in two different broad meanings.

The one is used where 'it' is zeal. You might recognize the phrases 'full of beans' 'full of juice' for examples. In the context of this question, we might think the zeal is for a particular thing (egalitarianism.)

The other, apparently more common going by the evidence of other correspondents, as a marginally more polite way of saying 'full of shit' which is to be taken to mean 'has nothing but shit to give.' To be used to describe, broadly, a liar.

Given some of the things the lady claims, 'there were only 65 caucasians fluent in Japanese in the US.' And that 'Japanese women were thought of and treated like chattel' and yet one woman managed to grant them something close to equal rights...for instance, we might assume the author of the obituary managed to say what they meant whilst keeping language fit for an obituary.

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