Sound and fury

中国日报网 2017-01-06 12:36



Sound and furyReader question:

Please explain this headline: Market Turbulence Just a Lot of ‘Sound and Fury”.

My comments:

First of all, market turbulence refers to all the frantic buying and selling that result in steep rising and falling of share prices.

Turbulence, as turbulence in the air, means the air is gusty and unstable. When prices rise or fall sharply, people hence begin to wonder if the economy as a whole is going wrong, whether the next market crash is round the corner, etc. In other words, market turbulences often lead to panic.

When such turbulences are described as just a lot of “sound and fury”, however, there’s no need to panic. Fear not. Nothing’s going wrong.

That is because “sound and fury” as an idiom means mere noise, without meaning or significance.

Literally, sound means talk while fury means furious noise, as in the noise we make when we are furious, i.e. very angry.

Again, literally, “sound and fury” means loud voices in quarrels and arguments. They are not, however, as persuasive as good reasoning and gentle persuasion. A drunkard, for example, however noisy he is, does not sound convincing to anyone. All his “sound and fury” means nothing.

Yes, practically, “sound and fury” means nothing because William Shakespeare, who coined the phrase, said so in the first place.

Originally, “sound and fury” appears in the Macbeth, as follows:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Signifying nothing, see? That’s the crucial point to remember about “sound and fury” – in the end, what’s “full of sound and fury” means nothing.

In our example, for instance, all the market turbulence is just a lot of noise, “signifying nothing”. In other words, all the buying and selling are normal, profit-taking selling and speculative buying.

In the short run, that is, no major policy changes are expected or anything. Nor are fears of a market crash necessary.

All right, here are other media examples of “sound and fury”:

1. Patent reform advocates are cheering an announcement last week from Tesla Motors that it had symbolically taken down its proud wall of patents. To encourage more rapid deployment of electric vehicles, chief executive Elon Musk wrote, “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Going forward, Musk promised to open source the company’s protected inventions.

Hundreds of commenters largely cheered the decision. “It is wonderful to see altruism and sound business decisions converge,” said one Tesla owner. “Well played, Tesla,” said another.

Tesla’s move certainly goes against the grain. But it is hardly game-changing. While patents can be powerful legal weapons against copycat competitors, it bears repeating that they are always temporary.

In the United States, patent protection lasts, depending on the nature of the innovation, no longer than twenty years. After that, the invention becomes free for anyone to use however they like, without any say by the original inventor, for all eternity. Reformers are likewise hailing Tesla’s decision to take the affirmative step of open sourcing its protected innovations, encouraging others to use and improve on them.

But that too is a standard feature of the patent system. As part of the quid pro quo of receiving government-sanctioned protection for her innovation (which, among other prerequisites, must be seriously innovative), the inventor must provide sufficient information — in advance and in detail — for others in the field to duplicate the invention without having to reinvent the wheel.


Patent law, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is increasingly nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing. Tesla’s move underscores the urgent need for genuine reform. The system’s benefits are quickly being overrun by its costs, particularly in those industries where technological disruption is speeding up, which is more of them all the time. When core technologies are continuously being replaced before the patents on them expire, unneeded protections for inventors become an expensive and dangerous drag on both the economy and future innovation.

Why? Cynical litigation to enforce often worthless patents are costing companies billions in legal fees and other forms of tribute. With broader and more dubious patents being granted all the time, the temptation is growing both for producing and non-producing patent holders to use litigation not to protect true innovation but to slow down competitors or siphon off their profits.

- Tesla reminds us of the urgent need for patent reform,, June 16, 2014.

2. Google ‘diet’ and you’ll get nearly half-a-billion results in less time than it takes to swallow. There are diets that tell you to count calories and diets that tell you to focus on food groups. There are diets that tell you to avoid carbs and diets that tell you to carbo-load. There are diets that tell you to eat a handful of blueberries, or a handful of walnuts, or that you should load all your foods with lemon juice, cinnamon or turmeric. Eggs, potatoes and full-fat dairy are out, then they’re back in.

It’s a nutritional version of the lawless ‘wild west’, but it’s also a whole lot of sound and fury that achieves nothing, nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the audience at the BBC Future World-Changing Ideas Summit in Sydney last week.

“The super foods fad is yet another sign of the never-ending search for a magic bullet to solve problems,” she says. “Such thinking, which ignores the multi-factorial nature of diet-related health problems, is probably the greatest myth.”

A big problem is our focus on individual nutrients or ingredients. Stanton argues this takes the focus away from fresh produce and towards processed foods. Our fixation with specific vitamins or mineral also creates an environment in which manufacturers can add nutrients to food and make health claims for those foods.

“Then it achieves a health halo and it sells, and you see this with heavily sweetened breakfast cereals,” Stanton says. “I get concerned when people find that something’s good then they stick it in their Coco Pops.” Stanton points out that she is yet to find an Australian deficient in the sort of nutrients that go into fortified cereals.

There is one ingredient that Stanton is happy to single out: sugar. She argues that a sugar tax is ‘low-hanging fruit’ that governments would be foolish not to pick. But the food industry around the world has been fighting tooth-and-nail against such an approach, which Stanton takes as a sign of encouragement. “Whenever the processed food industry opposes something vehemently, I’ve got a pretty good idea it would work.”

In general, Stanton argues that the same age-old dietary wisdom still holds: lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, small amounts of protein, particularly fish and seafood. For this reason, the Mediterranean diet is often upheld by many as the closest thing to a dietary magic bullet, heavy in plant-based foods and oily fish.

- Why there is no such thing as a superfood,, November 24, 2016.

3. The Economic Consequences of the Peace is one of those rare books that seem to exude brilliance, power and polemical passion from the opening page, propelled by the urgency and consequence of the subject. Unlike some other rhetorical classics in this list, it executes its argument with a rapier not a blunderbuss, using the clinical ferocity of hammered steel not wild, explosive irruptions of outrage.

Reading Keynes in 2017, nearly a hundred years after first publication, you don’t have to know the diplomatic minutiae of the Versailles peace treaty, a notorious historical disaster, to appreciate that here is a brilliant writer (who would subsequently become a great economist) flexing his intellectual muscles for the first time on the world stage. Uniquely, too, this is a book whose subject is economics but whose message is geopolitical. It’s a book, moreover, suffused with a deep and compelling sense of imminent catastrophe: “In Paris, where those connected with the Supreme Economic Council received almost hourly the reports of the misery, disorder and decaying organisation of all central and eastern Europe, allied and enemy alike, and learned from the lips of the financial representatives of Germany and Austria unanswerable evidence of the terrible exhaustion of their countries, an occasional visit to the hot, dry room in the president’s house, where the Four fulfilled their destinies in empty and arid intrigue, only added to the sense of nightmare.”

At the time, The Economic Consequences of the Peace created an instant controversy. Keynes was the official representative of the British Treasury at the negotiations in Paris. He was in the room during all the crucial discussions about “making Germany pay”, saw the protagonists of the treaty (Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau) in action at first hand, and was able to witness for himself the making of an international catastrophe: “My … most vivid impression is of … the president [Wilson] and the prime minister [Lloyd George] as the centre of a surging mob and a babel of sound, a welter of eager, impromptu compromises and counter-compromises, all sound and fury signifying nothing, on what was an unreal question anyhow, the great issues of the morning’s meeting forgotten and neglected; and Clemenceau silent and aloof on the outskirts…”

Keynes’s essay was bestseller worldwide. It rapidly became the source of conventional left-liberal wisdom on Versailles Keynes’s arguments for a more generous settlement were prescient. Above all, he saw with unique clarity the geopolitical tenor and perspective expressed by the Big Four, a combination of grandeur, vanity and vengeance that would shape Europe after the great war and send it spiralling towards an even bigger catastrophe.

- The 100 best nonfiction books: No 48 – The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes (1919),, January 2, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

上一篇 : Truth flies out the window
下一篇 : Finding a way



















关于我们 | 联系方式 | 招聘信息

Copyright by All rights reserved. None of this material may be used for any commercial or public use. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 版权声明:本网站所刊登的中国日报网英语点津内容,版权属中国日报网所有,未经协议授权,禁止下载使用。 欢迎愿意与本网站合作的单位或个人与我们联系。