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Sound Out

Posted by ESC on January 14, 2000

In Reply to: Sound Out posted by Teach on January 13, 2000

: : I have come across a strange expression (well, I've never heard of it!). Can anyone tell me what does "sound out" mean as in "government will take the necessary steps to sound out industry"? I will appreciate any help.

: To 'sound out' is generally understood to mean to seek the opinion of a person/persons/organization.

SOUND; SOUNDING - From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" (Facts on File, ) by Robert Hendrickson: "The sounding that determines the depth of the water by means of a line and lead is of no relation to the word 'sound,' meaning something audible, which derives from the Latin 'sonus.' Sounding comes from the Old English word 'sund,' for 'water, sea, or swimming.' The sound that is an inlet of the sea has the same roots."

"Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions" by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey (Sheridan House, 1983) have some slightly different information: "Sounding out. Researchers sound out public opinion, which means search and enquire, in exactly the same way as the sailor does when he sounds the depth of the water beneath his ship with an echo-sounder or sounding line. From the Anglo-Saxon 'sund' - messenger."