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April 3, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(1):68. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140126030

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'Reading," said Francis Bacon, "maketh a full man." The word "full" should make us pause, for, as in most figures of speech, it permits of some ambiguity. The word itself, of ancient lineage, has a wide range of meanings, with metaphorical, logical, and colloquial extensions. The main sense involves the idea of maximum content, but it can indicate as well merely a large amount or great abundance.

Bacon used "full man" to indicate, as one dictionary declares, "one whose mind is richly stored." But whoever launches a metaphor cannot always control its future course. We today, when we think of the full man, can hardly avoid the colloquial implications attached to the gastronomic usage of the term.

There is something undesirable in being gastronomically full—it suggests a certain excess as if you stuffed yourself beyond the limits of either politeness or good hygiene. It suggests at least a tinge of