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A phrase used to describe someone who tends to be on the quiet side, or a person who does not have much to say when they speak.
This phrase is self-explanatory; it literally means what it says, which is rare for most phrases. Indeed, people, such as myself, don't have a whole lot to say much of the time. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. It could be due to feeling uncomfortable around others, being shy, or it could just be the style for how a person talks; short and to the point.
This phrase has been around for at least 400 years, and unsurprisingly, its meaning has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. For example, a popular playwright known as William Shakespeare uses the phrase in the play King Henry V, from 1599:
"He hath heard that men of few words are the best men."
Sometimes, men of few words were described in combination with another old expression that says they were 'men of action.' For example, in The Atlas newspaper from 1839, it reads:
"He was a man of action, not of words; and was much more at his ease in the smoke and tire of a battle
than the meshes of a debate."
Indeed, while a man may not have anything to say, they can make up for it by what they do.
* I've been friends with Dillan for over a decade, and I know him to be a man of few words, but at least he is funny when he does decide to talk.
Note: The origins for most common idioms cannot be said with a certainty. What's provided are theories that may be plausible to how a phrase originated, but not necessarily so.
In addition, quotes that contain a phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books that were written centuries ago, but this by no means shows they originated from these. In all likelihood, if an expression is being used in a newspaper, it's probably already well known, and thus, from an older period of time.
Know Your Phrase - The Phrase Meanings For Common Idioms and Expressions > M-Letter Sayings