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T H E T H E O R Y OF

PROPER NAMES
A CONTROVERSIAL ESSAY

BY

SIR ALAN G A R D I N E R
Fellow of the British Academy

L O N D O N

O X F O R D UNIVERSITY PRESS
NEW Y O R K TORONTO
Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.C.4
GLASGOW NEW YORK TORONTO MELBOURNE WELLINGTON

BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS KARACHI CAPE TOWN IBADAN

FIRST PUBLISHED 1 9 4 O
SECOND EDITION 1954
SECOND IMPRESSION 1957

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN


PREFACE

A p a r t from a few trifling v e r b a l changes and a couple of


added footnotes the bulk of this book is the exact reprint
of a paper-bound booklet published in a very small
edition in 1940. Doubtless o w i n g to the circumstances of
the times, but possibly also to the original publication's
somewhat négligé apparel, this passed almost unnoticed,
and I have knowledge of only two reviews, the second of
w h i c h appeared a whole decade later than the first.
H a v i n g always felt that a piece o f work that h a d cost me
so m u c h trouble deserved a better fate, I decided to see
whether the situation could not be remedied b y such
external allurements as m y excellent friends at the
O x f o r d University Press were able to offer. I a m sure I
h a v e acted wisely in not attempting to alter m y m a i n
text, since at the age of seventy-four m y ability to deal
with an exceptionally difficult topic is certainly smaller
than it was fourteen years ago. Nevertheless I h a v e been
unable to dispense with some pages of fresh c o m m e n t ,
appended at the end of the book under the h e a d i n g
‘Retrospect 1953’. Here I h a v e found myself compelled
to admit the force of an objection raised in the later
o f the t w o reviews above mentioned, and to suggest
some alterations in m y formal definition accordingly.
H a d I thought fit to remodel m y earlier text, this w o u l d
h a v e occasioned some changes also there, and particu-
larly in m y concluding sentence (p. 67), but for the
reason stated I have deemed it more prudent, as w e l l
as more honest, to leave m y original formulations un-
corrected.
vi PREFACE
I n suppressing m y earlier P r e f a c e I h a v e b e e n
p r o m p t e d b y the c o n s i d e r a t i o n t h a t at the present time
it w o u l d h a v e b e e n m a i n l y i r r e l e v a n t . Its p r i n c i p a l
t h e m e w a s the d i f f i c u l t y I h a d e x p e r i e n c e d in g i v i n g m y
essay its final s h a p e , a n d the a c c o m p a n y i n g a c k n o w -
l e d g e m e n t s t u r n e d m o r e u p o n the e n c o u r a g e m e n t
e x t e n d e d to m e b y friends t h a n u p o n a n y fruitful
suggestions they h a d to offer. A f t e r all, the c h i e f o b l i g a -
tion i n c u r r e d b y a controversial w r i t e r is t o w a r d s those
w h o s e opinions h e a t t e m p t s to refute, n o t h i n g b e i n g
m o r e s t i m u l a t i n g t h a n to e n c o u n t e r assertions w i t h
w h i c h one c a n n o t a g r e e . I confess to h a v i n g w o n d e r e d
m o r e t h a n o n c e w h e t h e r m y criticism o f B e r t r a n d
Russell o u g h t not to h a v e b e e n r e w r i t t e n , seeing t h a t the
e m i n e n t p h i l o s o p h e r has n o w restated his position in
c o n s i d e r a b l y m o d i f i e d f o r m (Human Knowledge, 1948,
P a r t I I , c h . iii, a n d P a r t I V , c h . viii). I f I h a v e re-
frained, it is b e c a u s e I a m no l o n g e r e q u a l to the task.
Besides, Russell's m a i n contentions a p p e a r to h a v e re-
m a i n e d the s a m e ; for h i m the moon a n d this are still
p r o p e r names, a n d Socrates n o m o r e t h a n a m e r e descrip-
tion. O n the positive side I feel t h a t m y m a i n i n d e b t e d -
ness is to M i l l a n d to D i o n y s i u s T h r a x .

1953
CONTENTS
I . Mill's conception outlined I

I I . The Greek tradition 4


I I I . Implications of that tradition. Name and Word 5
I V . Embodied and disembodied proper names. Our
discussion to turn upon the former 8
V . Various incongruent uses found in Speech to be
disregarded
I I

V I . Homonymous and common proper names. Surnames


and gentile names are of the latter variety 15
V I I . Proper names involving more than one word. Use of
the definite article "9
V i l i . Collective and plural proper names. M�δos,Π�ρσης2 2
I X . Some singular names are not proper names. Criti-
cism of Mill's account 25
X . The Greek view of proper names as names indi-
vidually used is inadequate. Mill's superior
criterion of meaninglessness discussed 29

x i · The principles involved in naming. True names. The


importance as evidence of the word sun 32

X I I . Mill's failure to pay sufficient attention to the name


itself, i.e. to the name in its aspect of sound-sign 38
X I I I . Proper names of clear etymology or with meaningful
associations 41

X I V . Definition of a proper name 42

X V . The conditions which give rise to proper names:


(a) Celestial bodies 43
viii CONTENTS
XVI. (b) Place-names 45
XVII. (e) Personal names; designations like Cook,
Father 47
XVIII. (d) Ships, houses, animals, &c. 50
XIX. (e) English and Latin names of birds, plants, &c. 51
XX. (f) Month-names and days of the week. Feast days 52
XXI. (g) Mythological andfictional names. Existence a
necessary condition of all proper names, but only

existence in the mind 54


XXII. Criticism of the views of Bertrand Russell and Prof.
Stebbing
57
XXIII. Conclusion. Points wherein my view differs from
those of others
66
A P P E N D I X . Some other definitions criticized:
(i) Keynes 68
(2) Bertelsen 68
(3) Funke 69
(4) Bröndal 69
RETROSPECT I953 71

INDEX OF AUTHORS £ ' OTED OR CRITICIZED 77


T H E T H E O R Y OF
PROPER NAMES

M I L L ' S conception o f P r o p e r N a m e s as m e a n i n g -
less marks set u p o n things to distinguish t h e m
f r o m one another seems, at first sight, as sensible
as it is simple. A p p l i e d , for e x a m p l e , to the names o f the
rock-infesting monsters S c y l l a a n d C h a r y b d i s a definition
a l o n g these lines appears u n e x c e p t i o n a b l e . T h o s e n a m e s
might, if c h a n c e h a d so willed it, h a v e been i n t e r c h a n g e d
w i t h o u t i m p a i r i n g their demonstrative efficacy. T o us in
m o d e r n times, at all events, S c y l l a a n d C h a r y b d i s m e a n ,
merely as names, absolutely n o t h i n g . N o d o u b t they w e r e
f r a u g h t w i t h sinister m e a n i n g for a n Odysseus perilously
steering his ship between t h e m . B u t M i l l explicitly ex-
cludes from his understanding o f the t e r m ' m e a n i n g ' a n y
previous k n o w l e d g e of the o b j e c t denoted. I n s p e a k i n g o f
proper n a m e s as meaningless m a r k s he makes ' m e a n i n g '
s y n o n y m o u s w i t h 'connotation', a n d b y a c o n n o t a t i v e
n a m e he understands one w h i c h not o n l y denotes some-
thing, b u t also connotes or implies some attribute o f it :
such a concrete general n a m e , for instance, as tree, w h i c h
m a y b e used to denote this or that particular tree, b u t
w h i c h in so d o i n g simultaneously implies o f it the attri-
butes shared b y it with other trees. Since the n a m e s Scylla
a n d Charybdis connote no such attributes, they are n o n -
connotative or meaningless a c c o r d i n g to M i l l ' s termi-
nology. A n d since also these n a m e s are u n d e n i a b l y

B
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
distinguishing marks, for h i m they w o u l d h a v e been
typical 'proper names'. 1
T o the objection arising f r o m the fact that p r o p e r
names are usually g i v e n for a reason, w h i c h reason m a y
h a v e been the possession o f characters a c t u a l l y indicated
in the names, e.g. Dartmouth, Rochefort, Mont Blanc, M i l l
has again a n answer. C o n c e r n i n g D a r t m o u t h he writes : 2

Ά town may have been named Dartmouth, because it is


situated at the mouth of the Dart. But it is no part of the
signification of the word Dartmouth, to be situated at the
mouth of the Dart. If sand should choke up the mouth of
the river, or an earthquake change its course, and remove it
to a distance from the town, the name of the town would
not necessarily be changed. T h a t fact, therefore, can form no
part of the signification of the word ; for otherwise, when the
fact confessedly ceased to be true, no one would any longer
think of applying the name.'

T h e a r g u m e n t is not c o n v i n c i n g as it stands. T h e n a m e
Dartmouth seems at least to i m p l y the attribute ' l y i n g a t
the m o u t h o f the D a r t ' , seems at least to be connotative.
B u t if it is connotative, a n d if none the less w e continue
to regard it as a proper n a m e , then M i l l ' s definition
breaks d o w n . F r o m that definition c o m b i n e d w i t h the
situation conjured u p b y h i m , w e m i g h t rather conclude
that Dartmouth c o u l d b e c o m e a p r o p e r n a m e only after
the sand or e a r t h q u a k e h a d accomplished its character-
e f f a c i n g work. S u c h was, indeed, the v i e w a d v o c a t e d b y
the Swedish g r a m m a r i a n Noreen, 3 w h o contended that

* M i l l gives no formal definition, but the statement of his position in m y


opening sentence is roughly accurate. For some qualifications see below,
p. 34, n. I, and p. 35, n. 1.
2 J . S. M i l l , System• of Logic, Bk. I, ch. 2, § 5. I shorten the passage

slightly, since it is mixed u p with discussion o f the n a m e John.


3 Einführung in die wissenschaftliche Bedeutung der Sprache, Halle, 1923,
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
Spittal, the n a m e o f a w e l l - k n o w n p l a c e in C a r i n t h i a , w a s
n o t h o r o u g h b r e d p r o p e r n a m e so l o n g as a hospital
existed there, a n d a c q u i r e d t h a t r a n k o n l y w h e n the
hospital disappeared. A s against this a r g u m e n t , linguistic
feeling a n d the consensus o f p h i l o l o g i c a l opinion w o u l d
alike assure us that Spittal w a s the n a m e o f t h a t t o w n , a n d
a p r o p e r n a m e , from the v e r y start. It is easy to r e d u c e
such a n a r g u m e n t ad absurdum. W i l l it be seriously m a i n -
tained that a M r . I r o n m o n g e r w o u l d lose his n a m e if he
returned to the trade o f his forefathers, or a M r . C o w a r d
if p r o v e d g u i l t y o f acts o f c o w a r d i c e ?
I shall return later 1 to the p r o b l e m o f Dartmouth a n d
other n a m e s like it, the d e b a t e c o n c e r n i n g w h i c h has b e e n
recalled at this early stage m e r e l y to show that the theory
o f P r o p e r N a m e s presents difficulties not obvious at a first
g l a n c e . T h a t M i l l ' s e x p l a n a t i o n s h a v e not c o m p l e t e l y
satisfied either philologists or logicians is evident f r o m the
m a n y disquisitions devoted to the question since his d a y .
N o n e the less I a m c o n v i n c e d that his v i e w is not far w i d e
o f the m a r k , a n d needs only a little alteration a n d e l a b o r a -
tion in order to set it o n a solid f o u n d a t i o n . M i l l ' s c h a p t e r
o n N a m e s has at least one merit n o t earned b y e v e r y sub-
sequent b o o k o n L o g i c ; it shows that his m i n d distin-
guished w i t h all requisite clearness b e t w e e n n a m e a b l e
things a n d the v e r b a l instruments used for reference to
them. T h e defect o f his linguistic theory is that it is neither
b r o a d l y e n o u g h conceived nor yet sufficiently detailed ; it
is absurd to think that the h i g h l y c o m p l e x m e c h a n i s m o f
c o m m u n i c a t i o n could be a d e q u a t e l y treated in the f e w
p. 384. A s noted below, pp. 4 1 - 4 2 , N o r e e n barely saves his thesis b y the
insertion of the epithet ' t h o r o u g h b r e d ' (1lollblut). T h e a r g u m e n t is re-
peated in e x a g g e r a t e d form b y V . B r ö n d a l , Ordklasserne, C o p e n h a g e n ,
1928, p. 83.
1 See below, p. 4 1 .
4 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R NAMES
pages he devotes to it. T h e purpose o f m y a d m i t t e d l y
imperfect essay is threefold : first, to a d a p t M i l l ' s concep-
tion of proper n a m e s to the general theory o f Semantics
I h a v e e n d e a v o u r e d to e x p o u n d e l s e w h e r e ; second, to
test that c o n c e p t i o n b y the a d d u c i n g o f m a n y m o r e
examples, a n d in p a r t i c u l a r to study the conditions w h i c h
lead to the imposition o f p r o p e r n a m e s ; a n d last b u t not
least, to a n i m a d v e r t o n a v i e w o f p r o p e r n a m e s m u c h in
v o g u e a m o n g m o d e r n logicians, b u t w h i c h I regard as a
w h o l l y pernicious aberration o f t h o u g h t .

II

T h e term ' P r o p e r N a m e ' comes to us f r o m the Greeks,


a m o n g w h o m ὄ ν ο μ α κ ύ ρ ι ο ν , rendered in L a t i n b y nomen
proprium, m e a n t a ' g e n u i n e ' n a m e , or a n a m e m o r e
genuinely such t h a n other names. 1 A c c o r d i n g l y the
ὄ ν ο μ α κ ύ ρ ι ο ν w a s contrasted w i t h the π ρ ο σ η γ ο ρ ί α or 'appel-
lation', a term used to describe w h a t w e c a l l 'general
names' or ' c o m m o n nouns' like man, horse, tree. T h e Stoic
C h r y s i p p u s m a d e a sharper distinction, c o n f i n i n g ὄ ν ο μ α
to w h a t w e n o w c a l l proper names. T h e later g r a m -
marians, b y using the epithet κ ύ ρ ι ο ν either w i t h or w i t h -
out ὄ ν ο μ α , i m p l y that the π ρ ο σ η γ ο ρ ί α is a sort o f ὄ ν ο μ α ,
b u t not a quite g e n u i n e one. N o better a c c o u n t exists
than that b y D i o n y s i u s T h r a x , a p u p i l o f Aristarchus w h o
lived in the second century B.C. His statement 2 m a y be
rendered :
1
S c h o e m a n n , Lehre von den Redetheilen, B e r l i n , 1862, p . 82, n. 2, p o i n t s
o u t t h a t this t e r m κύριον h a s often b e e n w r o n g l y i n t e r p r e t e d to m e a n
p e c u l i a r to the i n d i v i d u a l , cf. G e r m . Eigennamen, w h e r e a s the r e a l m e a n -
i n g is 'authentic', 'properly so called' ; so too J . W a c k e r n a g e l , Vorlesungen
über Syntax, Basel, 1 9 2 0 - 4 , v o l . ii, p . 61.
2 "Ονομά e V n μερος λόγου πτωτικόν, σωμα η ττράγμα σ-ημαΐνον, σώμα
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
Ά noun or name' (the one word δνομα is used, this covering
both notions ; cf. the French nom = nom substantif, whereas the
Germans, like ourselves, distinguish Nomen = 'noun' and
Namen) 'is a declinable part of speech signifying a body or an
activity, a body like "stone" and an activity like " e d u c a t i o n " ,
and may be used both commonly and individually; com-
monly (κοινώς) like " m a n " , " h o r s e " and individually (ίδίως
"privately") like "Socrates".' Dionysius himself also uses the
term κύριον, identifying it with such names or nouns as are
used 'individually' (tSi'ojy) ; of the κΰριον he says it is 'that
which signifies individual being' (την Ιόίαν ούσίαν) such as
"Homer", "Socrates"."

Ill

Since a n y fruitful discussion m u s t start f r o m points o f


a g r e e m e n t , w e shall d o wisely to g o b a c k to the f o u n t a i n -
h e a d a n d to a d o p t its standpoints as o u r o w n . It w i l l b e
seen that Dionysius is c o n c e r n e d p r i m a r i l y w i t h the kinds
a n d the uses o f words, a n d o n l y secondarily w i t h the
n a t u r e o f the things denoted b y t h e m . A c c o r d i n g l y w e
too o u g h t to regard the p r o b l e m o f p r o p e r n a m e s as
essentially a linguistic p r o b l e m , a n d so l o n g as it is a
question o f investigating their essential nature w e o u g h t
strenuously to d e n y that there exists a n y other l e g i t i m a t e
road o f a p p r o a c h . It will b e f u r t h e r observed that D i o n y -
sius chooses his examples f r o m the r e a l m o f daily e x p e r -
ience, in o n e case indeed referring to something o f a n
abstract n a t u r e ( ' e d u c a t i o n ' ) , b u t otherwise c o n c e r n i n g
himself o n l y w i t h w e l l - a u t h e n t i c a t e d m a t e r i a l entities.

μεν olov λίθος, πράγμα Se olov naiSeι'α, κοίνώς re και ι8ίως λεγόμΐνον,
κοινώς μ£ν olov ανθρωπος ΐππος, ί&ίως Be olov Σωκράτης. Dionysios Thrax,
p. 634ft, Ρ· 24 t h e edition by U h l i g , L e i p z i g , 1885.
Κΰρίον μίν ovv earl, TO την lb Lav ονσίαν σημαΐνον, otov "Ομ-ηρος
1

Σωκράτης, o p . cit., p. 636ft, p. 33 of the edition.


i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
I n contrasting the c o m m o n a n d the i n d i v i d u a l or exclu-
sive e m p l o y m e n t s o f names, he a p p a r e n t l y failed to take
into consideration that the n a m e Socrates c o u l d be, a n d
certainly often h a d been, used o f other persons besides
the famous philosopher. T h e other e x a m p l e ' H o m e r '
w h i c h he cites shows it w a s really the philosopher he h a d
in m i n d . W e m a y , I think, fairly assume that in Dionysius'
t h o u g h t at the m o m e n t the n a m e Socrates itself w a s as
u n i q u e as the celebrity to w h o m he w a s referring. L e t us
take, then, as o u r starting-point such p r o p e r n a m e s as are
applied, in English usage at the present time, to only o n e
h u m a n being, n a m e s like Jugurtha a n d Vercingetorix, or
a g a i n the n a m e o f a m o u n t a i n like Popocatepetl, or that o f
a city like Chicago.
T a c i t l y assumed in the w o r d s o f Dionysius is the fact
that the uses o f n a m e s or nouns to w h i c h he refers are
constitutional a n d n o r m a l uses, not historically single or
exceptional ones. T h i s is evident from his mention o f the
' c o m m o n ' use o f names, b y w h i c h he p l a i n l y m e a n s t h a t
a n o u n like man w a s used sometimes o f this m a n a n d some-
times o f that, not that it w a s used o f t w o or m o r e persons
o n a n y single g i v e n o c c a s i o n — h e was certainly not think-
i n g o f the d u a l or p l u r a l . Dionysius was, a c c o r d i n g l y ,
concerned w i t h the inherent nature o f certain names, not
w i t h their m o m e n t a r y uses or extensions or misapplica-
tions. T r a n s l a t e d into terms o f recent linguistic theory,
this m a y be expressed b y saying that the c a t e g o r y o f
p r o p e r n a m e s is a c a t e g o r y o f L a n g u a g e , not a c a t e g o r y
o f Speech. 1 Jugurtha, for e x a m p l e , is a n a m e w h i c h be-
longed constitutionally a n d p e r m a n e n t l y to a certain
N u m i d i a n king, a n d it is to b e d e p l o r e d w h e n e v e r a

1 Gardiner, Theory of Speech and Language, 2nd ed., O x f o r d , 1951, p p .

130-4.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
logician says a n y t h i n g o f this kind : ' H e r e the w o r d smith
[seil. L a t i n faber) is used as a p r o p e r n a m e ' , j u s t as if the
n a m e Smith were a fortuitous m o m e n t a r y a p p l i c a t i o n ,
a n d h a d not belonged to its o w n e r f r o m the v e r y d a y o f '
his birth. 1
M o d e r n philology has f o l l o w e d ancient e x a m p l e b y
referring to a κύριον like Jugurtha, not as a w o r d m e a n i n g
that p a r t i c u l a r individual, b u t as his ' n a m e ' . W e speak o f
'proper names', not o f 'proper nouns' or 'proper w o r d s ' .
T h i s , therefore, is a fitting o p p o r t u n i t y to consider the
difference between a ' w o r d ' a n d a ' n a m e ' . O f the t w o
terms, ' n a m e ' is far the older. I t is indeed i n c o n c e i v a b l e
that a n y h u m a n society, h o w e v e r primitive, should h a v e
lacked a w o r d for ' n a m e ' . T h i s term belongs to the pre-
g r a m m a t i c a l stage o f t h o u g h t , to a time w h e n p e o p l e h a d
no interest in words for their o w n sake, b u t t h o u g h t o f
t h e m solely as a means o f s p e a k i n g a b o u t the things o f
the e x t e r n a l w o r l d . T h e y n e v e r inquired w h a t such a n d
such a w o r d meant, but only b y w h a t n a m e such a n d such
a t h i n g w a s called. M a t e r i a l l y a ' w o r d ' a n d a ' n a m e ' are
identical. B u t there is this i m p o r t a n t difference that the
direction o f thought is opposite in each case. 2 W h e n w e
speak o f a ' w o r d ' our minds travel f r o m the sound-sign
to w h a t e v e r it m a y m e a n ; w h e n w e speak o f a ' n a m e ' w e
i m p l y that there exists s o m e t h i n g to w h i c h a certain
sound-sign corresponds, s o m e t h i n g that w a s the Jons et
origo o f the n a m e , something t h a t supplies its raison d'être.

1 e.g. Joseph, Introduction to Logic, 2nd ed., O x f o r d , 1916, p. 29 : 'Smith,

for e x a m p l e , as meaning one w h o works in metal, is a general term,


because I m e a n the same by calling D i c k or T h o m a s a smith ; if I use it as
a proper name, numerous as are the persons w h o bear it, I do not m e a n the
same in each use of it.' T h e italics are mine.
2 O n this point see the interesting remarks in Dornseiff, Der deutsche

Wortschatz, Berlin, 1934, p. 16.


i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S

IV

N o w in v i e w o f this difference o f attitude i n v o l v e d in


' w o r d ' a n d ' n a m e ' our retention o f the designation
'proper n a m e ' seems to dictate in a d v a n c e a decision w e
need to m a k e w i t h o u t further delay. It has not been recog-
nized as clearly as it should h a v e been that linguistic
science is concerned w i t h t w o closely related, b u t none
the less distinct, kinds o f proper n a m e , a n d w e h a v e to
m a k e u p our minds w h i c h o f these kinds is that w h e r e o f w e
intend to discuss the theory. W e h a v e seen that Dionysius
regarded a proper n a m e as a w o r d definitely tied d o w n to
a particular entity like Socrates a n d H o m e r , a n d w e our-
selves, in e m p l o y i n g the same term 'proper n a m e ' , seem
c o m m i t t e d to not a l l o w i n g the entity n a m e d to vanish
out o f our sight altogether. O n the contrary, it seems
i n c u m b e n t u p o n us to keep that entity more or less clearly
before our minds t h r o u g h o u t the ensuing discussion. N o r
is the decision w e h a v e to m a k e m e r e l y a m a t t e r o f choice,
since it will a p p e a r in d u e course that these ' e m b o d i e d
p r o p e r names', if I m a y so call them, are historically
prior to, a n d the a c t u a l originators of, the 'disembodied'
variety, the separate existence o f w h i c h has n o w to be
vindicated.
B y 'disembodied p r o p e r names' I m e a n those w o r d -
sounds that are studied for their e t y m o l o g y , f r e q u e n c y ,
a n d distribution in such books as M a w e r ' s Place-names of
Buckinghamshire, W e e k l e y ' s Romance of Names, R a n k e ' s
Ägyptische Personennamen a n d m a n y similar works. 1 T h e s e
scholars might, h o w e v e r , not u n r e a s o n a b l y c l a i m that the

1 T h e distinction here m a d e was pointed out in a short article contri-

buted by me to the Mélanges de linguistique et de philologie offerts à Jacques


van Ginneken, Paris, 1937, p. 308.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
subject-matter o f their books consists o f e x a c t l y the s a m e
p r o p e r n a m e s that are dealt w i t h b y Dionysius a n d M i l l .
T h e y w o u l d point out that the w o r d amo c o n j u g a t e d i n a
L a t i n g r a m m a r is just the same w o r d as was h e a r d on
m a n y a R o m a n lover's lips, t h o u g h in the g r a m m a r
interest is m o m e n t a r i l y w i t h d r a w n from the notion o f
'loving', whilst a n y p a r t i c u l a r instance o f amorous e m o -
tion is entirely out of the p i c t u r e . I t must be c o n c e d e d
f r a n k l y that the categories o f ' e m b o d i e d ' a n d 'disem-
b o d i e d ' p r o p e r n a m e s show a g r e a t overlap. W h e n the
student o f A m e r i c a n l a n g u a g e s concentrates his attention
o n a p r e s u m a b l y unique n a m e like Popocatepetl, this re-
mains still the n a m e o f the m o u n t a i n , t h o u g h the m o u n -
tain itself is not e n g a g i n g the t h o u g h t s o f the philologist.
B u t the position is different w i t h those p r o p e r n a m e s
w h i c h h a v e been attached to h u n d r e d s o f different entities
both real a n d i m a g i n a r y . T h e r e h a v e been literally
thousands o f persons called Mary or John or Henry, a n d
even p l a c e - n a m e s display a certain a m o u n t o f repetition,
as m a y be seen under such h e a d i n g s as Sutton, Victoria,
York in the index to a n y g o o d atlas. T h e m u l t i t u d e o f
persons a n d places for w h i c h p r o p e r names h a v e to b e
f o u n d is so great that the s a m e n a m e s must i n e v i t a b l y
o c c u r a g a i n a n d again. N o w w h e n the etymologist focuses
attention o n the n a m e Mary, it is evident that this n a m e
is c o m p l e t e l y disembodied ; Mary is, as it were, the essence
extracted f r o m a vast assemblage o f e m b o d i e d Marys.
H e n c e it seems necessary, in the interests o f clear t h i n k i n g ,
to distinguish between the t w o classes. T h e e m b o d i e d
proper names, t h o u g h w e c a n a n d indeed must investi-
gate their theory, as b e i n g the p r i m a r y a n d o r i g i n a t i n g
species, are in their multiplicity o f no concern to the
philologist as such. T h e w o r k s t h a t deal w i t h this latter
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
class are E n c y c l o p a e d i a s , Histories, Dictionaries o f
N a t i o n a l B i o g r a p h y , G e o g r a p h y books, a n d the like.
O t h e r reasons m a y be a d d u c e d for treating ' e m b o d i e d '
a n d 'disembodied' p r o p e r n a m e s as separate classes.
M o s t words r e g a r d e d merely as word-sounds, word-forms,
or technical terms to b e defined, are d e a l t w i t h m a i n l y in
educational a n d scientific treatises, b u t disembodied
proper names are often to b e f o u n d in o r d i n a r y literature
or in conversation. T h u s w e frequently c o m e across
sentences l i k e : He was a Shropshire farmer, whose name is
variously given as Harris or Hobson. His cousin's name was
Rose. H e r e Harris, Hobson, a n d Rose are word-sounds pre-
dicated o f a particular class o f w o r d - s o u n d w h i c h is called
name a n d o f w h i c h I h a v e a l r e a d y a t t e m p t e d to e x p l a i n the
nature. In these contexts Harris, Hobson, a n d Rose, t h o u g h
ultimately referred to particular persons t h r o u g h the
mediation o f the genitives whose a n d cousin's, are im-
mediately signs o n l y for certain word-sounds o f a specific
quality, not signs for persons; y o u c a n n o t predicate a
person o f a w o r d - s o u n d like a n a m e . I n conclusion m e n -
tion m a y be m a d e o f the official c a t a l o g u e o f Christian
n a m e s w h i c h enumerates the only ones that F r e n c h law
will allow to be selected for the children o f F r a n c e . A s
f o u n d in this c a t a l o g u e the names are obviously disem-
bodied, t h o u g h presenting themselves as candidates for
re-embodiment. F o r all I k n o w some o f t h e m m a y not
h a v e been a c t u a l l y e m b o d i e d for decades. 1

1 Brunot and B r u n e a u , Précis de grammaire historique de la langue française,

Paris, 1933, § 381 : ' A c t u e l l e m e n t nous devons prendre les prénoms sur
une liste officielle établie en 1865 : cette liste contient Eusébiote et Rigobert,
mais non Henriette, Juliette, Paulette, Pierrette.' Further, Prof. Bröndal tells
m e that some years ago the Danish G o v e r n m e n t , in order to remedy the
existing monotony of surnames (most of them formed b y means of -sen
f r o m the father's n a m e ) , published an official N a m e - b o o k , out of w h i c h
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S

H e n c e f o r t h , accordingly, w h e n e v e r I use the t e r m


'proper n a m e ' w i t h o u t q u a l i f i c a t i o n , I shall m e a n the
sort o f e m b o d i e d proper n a m e that both Dionysius a n d
M i l l a p p e a r to h a v e h a d in m i n d , the sort that is e x c l u -
sively e m p l o y e d of, a n d tied d o w n to, a p a r t i c u l a r person
or p l a c e or w h a t e v e r it m a y b e . O n l y if w e a d o p t this
course c a n w e hope to save their f u n d a m e n t a l distinction
b e t w e e n nouns that are ' c o m m o n l y ' used a n d nouns that
are used 'individually'. 1 I t has been seen that one a n d
the same w o r d - s o u n d — w h a t has been described as a
' d i s e m b o d i e d proper n a m e ' — i s often a p p l i e d to different
individuals. F o r e x a m p l e , I h a v e a son called John, a n d
so has m y n e i g h b o u r . W h a t is the linguistic relation o f
the t w o J o h n s to one a n o t h e r ? Before a n s w e r i n g this
question I a m compelled to strike o f f at a t a n g e n t b y the
o c c u r r e n c e o f the p l u r a l Johns in m y o w n last sentence.
T h i s o c c u r r e n c e m i g h t seem to b r i n g to light a third kind
o f p r o p e r n a m e intermediate b e t w e e n the t w o others,
n a m e l y a n o n l y partly d i s e m b o d i e d p r o p e r n a m e . I t is
clear that the singular John i m p l i e d in this p l u r a l signifies
neither ( i ) a sound, nor (2) a p a r t i c u l a r i n d i v i d u a l ;
t h o u g h the p l u r a l is used in reference to m y n e i g h b o u r ' s
J o h n a n d m y o w n , its singular means in itself only 'person
h a v i n g the (disembodied p r o p e r ) n a m e John'. T h i s is
seen even m o r e clearly in the Marys of England, w h e r e the
i n d i v i d u a l females intended are not, nor c o u l d they all be,
specified. Johns a n d Marys here, to w h i c h m a y be a d d e d
such e x a m p l e s as my John, your John, a John, resemble such

n e w names could legally be chosen. S o m e of these names h a v e never b e e n


used.
1 I n point of fact w e cannot save it at all, as w e shall see later.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
g e n e r a l n a m e s as horse a n d tree, b u t w h e r e a s these latter
c o n n o t e attributes entirely distinct f r o m the sound o f the
words, the assumed ' p a r t l y disembodied proper names'
connote m e r e l y the possession o f a p r o p e r n a m e o f the
w h o l l y disembodied t y p e . It m i g h t seem at first sight that
p r o p e r n a m e s o f this third kind are derivatives at t w o
removes from the e m b o d i e d p r o p e r n a m e s that are their
originals, that in f a c t the d i s e m b o d i e d John w a s first
distilled out o f a w h o l e collection o f Johns, a n d then
p a r t l y re-embodied in w h a t to all a p p e a r a n c e is a general
n a m e . S u c h a hypothesis holds pretty w e l l o f the Marys of
England, but fails to d o so o f the two Johns, w h e r e Johns is
evidently constructed, o n the spur o f the m o m e n t , f r o m
the t w o i n d i v i d u a l persons concerned.
T h e reason w h y w e must refuse to a d m i t the p a r t l y
disembodied proper n a m e s as a n a u t o n o m o u s third
v a r i e t y of proper n a m e is that they d o not fulfil the condi-
tion laid d o w n on p p . 6 - 7 a b o v e . T h e y are not facts o f
L a n g u a g e , b u t facts o f S p e e c h , creatures o f the m o m e n t ,
f o r m e d to m e e t a p u r e l y t e m p o r a r y linguistic need, not
p e r m a n e n t constituents o f our v o c a b u l a r y . T h e best w e
c a n say o f t h e m is that they are proper n a m e s o f the one
k i n d or the other used in a p a r t l y e m b o d i e d w a y like
c o m m o n nouns.
A s w e shall see later, it is b a r e l y disputable that some
p r o p e r names possess that p o w e r o f c o m m o n a p p l i c a t i o n
w h i c h w e associate w i t h c o m m o n nouns (general names), 1
b u t for the e x a m i n a t i o n o f these the m o m e n t is not yet
ripe. T h i s seems a n o p p o r t u n e m o m e n t , h o w e v e r , for
1 N o t e here once and for all that the terms ' c o m m o n noun' a n d

'general n a m e ' are synonymous. T h e former is the term preferred by


g r a m m a r i a n s , the latter t h a t accepted by M i l l a n d other logicians. I shall
use either the one or the other according as seems most appropriate to
the context.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
m e n t i o n i n g certain e m p l o y m e n t s to w h i c h , for the s a m e
reason as w i t h the Johns a n d Marys a l r e a d y discussed, the
title o f c o m m o n n o u n must b e refused. (1) V e r y r e m a r k -
able is the ease a n d virtuosity w i t h w h i c h m o d e r n E u r o -
p e a n l a n g u a g e s c a n e m p l o y p r o p e r n a m e s to attribute to
some other person or place, w h e t h e r a c t u a l or m e r e l y
postulated, o n e or more salient qualities w h i c h it is de-
sired not to specify. E x a m p l e s a r e : He is a veritable
Paderewski. We can well dispense with any more Napoleons. A
Shakespeare or Goethe needs no advertisement. Only a Raphael
could have painted such a picture.1 The new Jerusalem. Brussels
is a little Paris. Every country has its Babylon, only few an
Athens or a Florence. T h e correct g r a m m a t i c a l description
o f such e m p l o y m e n t s is : a n i n d i v i d u a l proper n a m e used
as a c o m m o n n o u n . I h a v e elsewhere e n d e a v o u r e d to
e x p l a i n h o w Speech, i.e. the ad hoc, historically u n i q u e ,
utilization o f L a n g u a g e , m a y b e n d to its i m m e d i a t e
purpose a w o r d not constitutionally s h a p e d to the use for
w h i c h it is e m p l o y e d . B y such ' i n c o n g r u e n t ' uses p e c u l i a r
nuances are c o n v e y e d , a n d it is t h r o u g h such uses that
semantic a n d g r a m m a t i c a l c h a n g e s are b r o u g h t a b o u t .
S o m e o f the e m p l o y m e n t s here envisaged h a v e g r o w n so
h a c k n e y e d that the reference to the original entity desig-
nated b y the proper n a m e b e c o m e s first obscured a n d
then c o m p l e t e l y obliterated ; in the final stage w h a t w a s
once a p r o p e r n a m e has b e c o m e a c o m m o n n o u n like a n y
other. T h e intermediate stage m a y b e illustrated b y the
Maecenases of New York; a spa ; a Lido; the final stage b y
a guy (from the images o f Guy Fawkes carried a b o u t b y

1 T h e writer intended to imply that a picture of such m a g n i f i c e n c e

could h a v e been painted only by a m a n possessing the genius of R a p h a e l ,


a n d , since there w a s no other m a n with that degree of genius, that the
picture could h a v e been painted only by R a p h a e l himself.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
children) a robin (diminutive o f Robert) ; an academy
(from the A t h e n i a n g a r d e n w h e r e P l a t o t a u g h t ) . (2)
A n o t h e r use o f p r o p e r n a m e s w h i c h must be r e g a r d e d as
unconstitutional (if I m a y b e a l l o w e d so to express it)
arises f r o m a m e n t a l d o u b l i n g or m u l t i p l i c a t i o n o f the
original entity, e.g. The mirrors all around her showed a dozen
separate Janes. Looking up from his place at the breakfast table,
John Fortescue saw returning his gaze from above the fireplace a
younger and much better-looking John Fortescue ; so too the
L a t i n Joves, i.e. images o f J o v e . (3) Similar, b u t resulting
f r o m the m e n t a l bisection o f the entity, is duae Galliae, i. e.
Cisalpine a n d T r a n s a l p i n e G a u l . H e r e the p l u r a l is ob-
tained b y h a l v i n g the entity a n d t h e n a p p l y i n g the
n a m e o f the w h o l e to e a c h half. A curiously analogous
process, b u t one l e a d i n g to the reverse result o f creating a
• singular form, will be illustrated later (pp. 2 4 - 2 5 ) b y such
e x a m p l e s as Μήδος, Πέρσ-ης. T h e s e latter words are, h o w -
ever, no mere occasional employments, n o mere p h e n o -
m e n a o f Speech, so t h a t consideration o f t h e m must b e
deferred. (4) Y e t a n o t h e r secondary use o f p r o p e r n a m e s
h a d better be dealt w i t h here, t h o u g h it gives rise to real
c o m m o n nouns, in w h i c h the originating b e a r e r o f the
n a m e is in some cases r e m e m b e r e d , in others forgotten or
half-forgotten. H e r e the n a m e is applied to something o f
a w h o l l y different species f r o m that o f the original pos-
sessor, this b e i n g the inventor or original user in the case
o f persons, a n d the source o f the m o d e l in the case o f
places. E x a m p l e s are : a Ford; a chesterfield; a mackintosh;
a Panama (hat) ; an ulster.

I t will simplify o u r task to h a v e eliminated all the


a b o v e from our discussion. W h e r e a p r o p e r n a m e has
1 I d o not quote dunce, since this apparently d i d not refer originally to

Duns Scotus himself, b u t only to his followers ; the early f o r m is a Duns man.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
been a d m i t t e d l y perverted f r o m its proper function to
serve some other semantic purpose, the latter lies outside
our i m m e d i a t e problem. T h e categorization o f Marys,
Johns, a Shakespeare, Joves, Galliae, is not affected b y the
a b n o r m a l f u n c t i o n or b y the use o f a p l u r a l ending. O n
the other h a n d , it becomes a m a t t e r o f opinion, or r a t h e r
o f linguistic feeling, w h e t h e r the status o f proper n a m e
should b e a l l o w e d to cases like a Ford, a Panama. T h e e m -
p l o y m e n t or n o n - e m p l o y m e n t o f a c a p i t a l letter indicates
the line a c t u a l l y taken in this m a t t e r b y philologists a n d
printers. It is inevitable that there should be hesitation
a n d disagreement as to w h a t w o r d s are proper n a m e s a n d
w h a t not. W e thus find ourselves m o v i n g towards a con-
ception in h a r m o n y w i t h the G r e e k v i e w , a c c o r d i n g to
w h i c h a p r o p e r n a m e is m e r e l y a n a m e m o r e g e n u i n e l y
so (KvpLov) t h a n others. F o r m y p a r t I should h a v e pre-
ferred to use a different m e t a p h o r a n d to say that p r o p e r
names are n a m e s that are more p u r e l y so t h a n words o f
a n y other kind, since in t h e m the process a n d purpose o f
n a m i n g shine forth like u n a l l o y e d m e t a l , whilst in the
m a j o r i t y o f words that process a n d purpose are obscured
a n d c o n t a m i n a t e d b y the a d m i x t u r e o f m e a n i n g , or b y
the imperfect success w i t h w h i c h the purpose o f n a m i n g
is attended.

VI

T o return to the point at w h i c h I digressed, the best w a y


o f m a k i n g clear the relation o f the t w o proper n a m e s
exemplified in m y o w n a n d m y n e i g h b o u r ' s J o h n is per-
haps b y reference to the deliberate acts o f n a m i n g b y
w h i c h they o b t a i n e d their n a m e s . T h o s e acts h a v e a
m a r k e d resemblance to certain n a m e - g i v i n g s w h i c h d o
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
not give rise to proper names. Similarly deliberate acts
h a v e been required to give their names to such a n e w d r u g
as insulin a n d to the m e c h a n i c a l c o n t r i v a n c e called a
typewriter, a n d no one will dispute that these acts h a v e
a d d e d new words to the English l a n g u a g e . It seems to
follow that every christening adds a n e w w o r d , if not to
the English l a n g u a g e , at all events to the circle or lin-
guistic c o m m u n i t y in w h i c h the n a m e is destined to pass
current. E a c h o f these words has a sense, an e x c h a n g e -
v a l u e , as different f r o m its fellows, I will not say as the
senses o f insulin a n d typewriter, b u t at least as the senses o f
insulin a n d genasprin, or as those o f typewriter a n d counting-
machine. M y J o h n is tall, dark, a n d differs m a r k e d l y in
character a n d ability, not to speak o f age, f r o m m y neigh-
b o u r ' s small a n d fair-haired J o h n . T h e t w o names John
h a v e , accordingly, a different sense, b u t the same sound.
Is it not imperative then to say that the t w o names are
h o m o n y m s ? A h o m o n y m is a w o r d that has the same
sound as another, b u t a different sense. 1 It c a n h a r d l y be
denied that the n a m e s o f the t w o J o h n s fulfil these condi-
tions.
Since the most f u n d a m e n t a l o f all the principles govern-
ing the mechanism o f L a n g u a g e m a y b e expressed in the
m o t t o 'distinctive sounds for distinctive meanings', it

1 ( U n d e r this definition, w h i c h is that of the Concise Oxford Dictionary

( 1 9 1 8 ) , ' h o m o n y m s ' include, not only words of different m e a n i n g


spelt and pronounced alike (e.g. file, sound), b u t also words pronounced
alike, but spelt differently (e.g. son and sun, hair a n d hare). It is doubtless
useful to have so comprehensive a term, b u t w o u l d it not be profitable to
reserve the term ' h o m o p h o n e ' for pairs of the latter kind? I n that case
' h o m o g r a p h ' might be e m p l o y e d for words spelt alike, but differing in
both sound and meaning, like entrance, p r o n o u n c e d entrahns and entrons ;
progress, pronounced progrès and progrés; produce, pronounced prodjus and
pródùs. It is distressing h o w often B . B . C , announcers confound words like
the last two examples.)
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
must b e a d m i t t e d that a h o m o n y m o u s proper n a m e like
John is h a r d l y as good a s p e c i m e n o f its class as Vercinge-
torix—in t h e o r y at least, a n d to some extent also in p r a c -
tice, as those w h o h a v e suffered f r o m the exasperating
m o d e r n h a b i t o f using C h r i s t i a n n a m e s in a n d o u t o f
season well k n o w . H o w e v e r , for reasons w h i c h need not
here b e stated, the h a r m d o n e to comprehension b y
h o m o n y m s is less than sometimes supposed, a n d since
bearers or givers o f such n a m e s as John m a y i n d i g n a n t l y
resent the suggestion that they are not as good as a n y
others, I will pass on to m y final c o m m e n t u p o n t h e m . I f
w e regard John, the n a m e o f a g i v e n J o h n , as a w o r d
different from, a n d merely h o m o n y m o u s with, the n a m e
John b e l o n g i n g to some other J o h n , w e are clearly thereby
d e b a r r e d f r o m using these n a m e s as evidence that some
p r o p e r n a m e s c a n be c o m m o n l y used.
T h i s brings us to the question : d o a n y proper n a m e s
exist w h i c h simultaneously are c o m m o n n o u n s ? A little
farther on I shall a d d u c e such w o r d s as Πέρσης a n d
Μήδος as fairly good testimony to that contention, or to
describe m y thesis more a c c u r a t e l y , I shall a r g u e that
these w o r d s c a n quite n o r m a l l y a n d in c o n g r u e n c e w i t h
their constitutional nature be a p p l i e d to various indivi-
duals, w i t h o u t thereby losing their status o f p r o p e r n a m e s .
A t this point, however, I must confine myself to p r o p e r
names w h i c h started b y b e i n g designations o f single
individuals, a n d in following o u t that p r o g r a m m e , the
next items for consideration must b e surnames a n d L a t i n
gentile names. It m a y , I think, safely be assumed that the
p r i m a r y purpose o f these w a s the identification o f some
individual, a purpose w h i c h in the right e n v i r o n m e n t ,
e.g. in a school w h e r e there are no t w o boys w i t h the s a m e
surname, is entirely successful. T h e absence of the p l u r a l
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
e n d i n g in the F r e n c h les Petitjean, les Hamel seems to hint
at a n awareness that the n a m e is p r o p e r l y the distinctive
b a d g e , not o f the f a m i l y as a w h o l e , b u t o f e a c h o f its
c o m p o n e n t members. B u t there is a g o o d reason to deter
us f r o m r e g a r d i n g a n a m e like Boileau, w h e n serving as a
designation o f t w o m e m b e r s o f the Boileau family, or
Claudius, w h e n f o u n d a p p l i e d to t w o different R o m a n s o f
the gens Claudia, as a h o m o n y m in e a c h respective case.
T h a t reason is that there h a v e been n o deliberate acts o f
n a m i n g to justify such a n interpretation. T h e n a m e s are
not p u r e l y arbitrary, b u t pass o n f r o m father to son
a u t o m a t i c a l l y a n d compulsorily. O u g h t w e then to call
Boileau a n d Claudius c o m m o n nouns, a n d to p u t t h e m on
a level w i t h horse a n d tree ? C l e a r l y not, for the i n d i v i d u a l
entities called horse are b o u n d together b y p a l p a b l e re-
semblances w h i c h m i g h t be s u m m e d u p in a n abstract
t e r m horsiness or horsehood, w h i l e a b o u t different Boileaus
a n d C l a u d i i there is no corresponding resemblance that
c o u l d be s u m m e d u p as Boileauness or C l a u d i u s h o o d .
E v e n c o m m u n i t y o f b l o o d is not implied, since one m i g h t
b e c o m e a Boileau b y m a r r i a g e a n d a C l a u d i u s b y a d o p -
tion. O n e is therefore t h r o w n b a c k on the c o m m o n pos-
session o f a p a r t i c u l a r n a m e or significative word-sound
as the sole resemblance, so far as L a n g u a g e is concerned,
b e t w e e n the i n d i v i d u a l bearers o f surnames or m e m b e r s
o f the R o m a n gentes, a n d , as w e shall see w i t h ever in-
creasing clearness, it is d e p e n d e n c e u p o n the sound alone
for their significative force w h i c h really m a r k s the distinc-
tion b e t w e e n proper n a m e s a n d c o m m o n nouns. O n the
other h a n d , one c a n n o t reject the a r g u m e n t that sur-
n a m e s a n d gentile n a m e s are used c o m m o n l y (κοινώς) o n
the g r o u n d that their plurals, like Johns a n d Marys, are
m e r e facts o f S p e e c h , not o f L a n g u a g e . S o m e at least o f
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
these plurals, e.g. the Plantagenets, the Romanoffs, are m o r e
familiar, m o r e stabilized as units o f the English l a n g u a g e ,
than the corresponding singulars. I f a special g r a m m a t i -
cal term must be f o u n d for surnames, L a t i n gentile
names, a n d examples like Mrjhos, Περσης, p r o b a b l y the
most a p p r o p r i a t e term w o u l d b e ' c o m m o n p r o p e r
names'.

VII

A m o n g the postulates w i t h w h i c h w e started w a s o n e to


the effect that a n a m e is a kind o f w o r d , only looked u p o n
in the reverse direction, i.e. starting w i t h the thing desig-
nated a n d thence proceeding to the linguistic instrument
serving for its designation. T h i s postulate involves, o f
course, the v i e w that a p r o p e r n a m e is likewise a w o r d o f
a p a r t i c u l a r kind. C o n s e q u e n t l y if w e find, as w e n o w
shall, that certain proper n a m e s are composed, not o f one,
b u t o f several words, that will be a v a l i d g r o u n d for con-
sidering t h e m rather less legitimate specimens o f the
category t h a n one-word proper names. T h i s d i s p a r a g i n g
verdict c a n n o t , however, b e e x t e n d e d to examples w h i c h
are really no less c o m p o u n d w o r d s than Dartmouth or
Oxford, t h o u g h written separately w i t h o u t even so hesitat-
ing a link as a h y p h e n . W e m a y u n d o u b t e d l y r a n k Mont
Blanc a n d Buenos Aires as a d m i r a b l e e x a m p l e s o f a p r o p e r
n a m e , or at all events it is not their writing as t w o w o r d s
w h i c h c o u l d prevent us f r o m g r a d i n g t h e m a m o n g the
purest o f their kind. 1 M a n y more c o m p l e x examples o f the
kind o c c u r , b u t with v a r y i n g degrees o f inseparability in

1 O n the other h a n d , the fact that these n a m e s h a v e some significance

does detract a little, but only a little, f r o m their purity. T h e purest of


proper names are wholly arbitrary and totally without significance.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
the c o m p o n e n t elements. T h e s e elements m a y comprise
one or more simple p r o p e r names, e.g. Piero dei Medici,
Stow-on-the-Wold, or m a y dispense w i t h t h e m altogether,
e.g. Les Pays Bas, the Black Prince. N o t all the c o m p o n e n t s
are o f e q u a l significative v a l u e ; in the p l a c e - n a m e Sutton
Scotney, for e x a m p l e , residents in the n e i g h b o u r h o o d
m a y drop the purely a u x i l i a r y Scotney, b u t Sutton is in-
dispensable. C o m p o u n d p r o p e r n a m e s often contain a n
adjective or a c o m m o n n o u n , e.g. Lord Melbourne, le Duc
d Aumale, Market Harborough, New Jersey, Long Island.
S o m e names o f persons c a n n o t be r e g a r d e d as c o m p o u n d s
at all, b u t m a y be t e r m e d 'composite p r o p e r names'.
T h e s e are combinations o f Christian a n d s u r n a m e like
Roger Bacon, or complete L a t i n names like Marcus Tullius
Cicero. T h e m o d e o f f u n c t i o n i n g here arises, as often in
samples o f S p e e c h that h a v e not the v a l u e o f proper
names, e.g. a very poor widow, f r o m the presentation o f
successive word-clues, w h i c h c u m u l a t i v e l y b r i n g to light
the entity m e a n t b y the speaker. T h e reason for composite
p r o p e r names obviously lies in the h o m o n y m i t y o f the
components ; there w e r e other Rogers a n d Bacons besides
Roger Bacon, a n d other Tullii besides the f a m o u s orator.
A s in the c o m p o u n d Sutton Scotney, so too in the composite
Edgar Allan Poe, one o f the elements is p u r e l y auxiliary ;
Edgar and Poe h a v e doubtless served, each in its o w n
milieu, to identify the bearer, b u t Allan c o u l d never h a v e
d o n e so. I n certain composite proper names, as well as in
c o m p o u n d ones (the t w o classes merge into one another,
showing h o w v a g u e the b o u n d a r i e s of linguistic categori-
zation m a y often be), some honorific elements b e l o n g to
the proper n a m e , a n d some not ; for instance, Sir in Sir
Walter Raleigh is a m o r e or less integral p a r t o f the n a m e ,
b u t Esq. in John Henderson, Esq. is not.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
T h e a b o v e desultory remarks o n c o m p o u n d or c o m p o -
site p r o p e r n a m e s seemed a p p r o p r i a t e in a w i d e survey o f
the theme, b u t no a t t e m p t c a n here be m a d e to classify
the countless varieties. It is, h o w e v e r , necessary to d w e l l
on the f u n c t i o n o f the definite article. A b s e n c e o f the
article is in m a n y languages a g o o d criterion as to w h e t h e r
a w o r d is a proper n a m e or not, so m u c h so that the use o f
the article in the sun, the moon (so too in F r e n c h , G e r m a n ,
Italian, H e b r e w , Arabic,, a n d E g y p t i a n ) is w e l l - n i g h
p r o o f that these words are not p r o p e r names, a fact w h i c h
will be s h o w n later to h a v e g r e a t i m p o r t a n c e for o u r
theory. A l m o s t e v e r y w h e r e , h o w e v e r , there is great in-
consistency a n d diversity o f c u s t o m in the use or a v o i d a n c e
o f the definite article. In L a t i n , o f course, this does not
exist. I n G r e e k o Άλΐξαν&ρος m e a n s 'the aforesaid
A l e x a n d e r ' a n d in G e r m a n die Anna has something like
the force o f 'our A n n ' in English. O n the other h a n d , in
some l a n g u a g e s the definite article is regularly f o u n d w i t h
names o f rivers a n d mountains, e.g. la Seine, the Thames
(note in Swedish Themsen), der Rhein, il Po, 6 Αΐγυπτος
(the Nile, contrast ή Αΐγυπτος for E g y p t ) , the Alps, les Alpes,
die Alpen, the Pamirs, the Himalayas. C o m b i n a t i o n s such as
the Fraser River a n d variants like the Himalaya Mountains
show, in c o m p a n y w i t h the g e n d e r o f the article, w h a t
is left implicit in the a b o v e n a m e s , b u t it w o u l d b e w r o n g
to assume earlier forms in w h i c h the words for river or
m o u n t a i n s w e r e expressed. T h e same holds good for the
n a m e s o f groups o f islands like the Hebrides, the Orkneys,
the Seychelles, a class in w h i c h a g a i n are f o u n d e x a m p l e s
w i t h the implicit w o r d expressed, e.g. the Leeward Islands,
or w i t h it as a variant, e.g. the Orkney Islands. I n several
E u r o p e a n l a n g u a g e s names o f countries affect the article,
e.g. la Russie, die Schweiz, VInghilterra, les Indes, t h o u g h
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
custom is vacillating, contrast die Schweiz w i t h Belgien, la
France with en France.

VIII

M y last p a r a g r a p h has included a n u m b e r o f p l u r a l


p r o p e r names, a n d this brings us face to face w i t h the
question h o w far p r o p e r n a m e s m a y b e considered as
individual names. It is incontestable that i n d i v i d u a l per-
sons a n d places f o r m the p r i n c i p a l source o f supply, b u t
negative instances are so frequent that application to
individuals c a n clearly not be m a d e a conditio sine qua non
in defining proper names. Dionysius, indeed, t h o u g h cit-
ing no examples of a non-individual kind, does not com-
mit himself to the statement that all p r o p e r names a p p l y
to individuals. A l l he says is that p r o p e r n a m e s are used
'individually' ( ί δ ί ω ς ) — n o t e the a d v e r b — o r that they
signify 'individual b e i n g ' (τήν IS lav ούσίαν), a n d this
might m e a n o n l y that the w o r d s called p r o p e r names
a p p l y globally a n d exclusively to a n y t h i n g to w h i c h they
do a p p l y . M i l l likewise quotes no non-individual ex-
amples, b u t he goes further than Dionysius inasmuch as
his statements show h i m to h a v e regarded proper names
as a sub-class o f singular or individual names, a c a t e g o r y
w h i c h he defines as f o l l o w s : ' A n i n d i v i d u a l or singular
n a m e is a n a m e w h i c h is only c a p a b l e o f b e i n g truly
affirmed, in the same sense, o f one thing.' 1 L o g i c i a n s
since M i l l h a v e often instanced proper names o f w h i c h
the objects are not individuals in a n y n a t u r a l sense o f the
term, but a p p a r e n t l y w i t h o u t a t t a c h i n g a n y great impor-
tance to the fact. A l o n e the school o f m o d e r n logicians o f
w h o m Bertrand Russell a n d Miss S t e b b i n g h a v e been

1 M i l l , op. cit., Bk. I, ch. 2, § 3.


i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
the c h i e f exponents definitely t a k e as their point o f d e p a r -
ture the notion that a p r o p e r n a m e , to b e really such,
must b e the n a m e o f a n i n d i v i d u a l thing. 1
N o t h i n g , it is true, prevents a n y p l u r a l i t y b e i n g
t h o u g h t o f as a unity, if w e wish to think o f it in t h a t w a y ,
a n d such appears to b e the w a y in w h i c h m a n y o f the
f o l l o w i n g e x a m p l e s are t h o u g h t of. T h e clearest cases are
collectives, i.e. nouns o f singular g r a m m a t i c a l n u m b e r re-
ferring g l o b a l l y to a collection o f similar individuals, e.g.
the Mafia, the Camorra, the Duma, the Dodecanese, the
Heptarchy, others to w h i c h some m i g h t refuse either the
title o f p r o p e r n a m e or that o f collective are Parliament,
Congress, the Atlas Insurance Company. A t least one F r e n c h
philologist 2 has claimed France as a collective, b u t w h e t h e r
o n a c c o u n t o f its thirty-three p r o v i n c e s (in the e i g h t e e n t h
century) or its eighty-six d e p a r t m e n t s or its f o r t y - t w o
million inhabitants I d o not k n o w . N o t all g r a m m a r i a n s
w o u l d a c c e p t France as a collective, b u t the o p i n i o n thus
v o i c e d at least hints at the troubles in w h i c h w e m a y in-
v o l v e ourselves if w e m a i n t a i n t h a t p r o p e r n a m e s c a n
a p p l y o n l y to individuals. It is surely w o r t h y o f reflection
that E u r o p e comprises a n u m b e r o f countries o f w h i c h
G e r m a n y is one, that Prussia is a p r o v i n c e o f G e r m a n y ,
t h a t Berlin is in Prussia, a n d t h a t t h a t same c a p i t a l houses
several million persons. L e a v i n g collectives, w e n o w c o m e
to plurals o f w h i c h no singular is recorded, e.g. the L a t i n
Quirites, Luceres, Ramnes ; m o u n t a i n - r a n g e s like the Andes ;
g r o u p s o f islands like the Azores ; groups o f stars like the
Pleiades. I pass over such a n a m e as Athenae, since this,

1 T h a t t h i n g being unlike a n y t h i n g t h a t w e call an individual t h i n g ,

proper n a m e s being restricted b y these authors to 'particulars'. See


b e l o w , p. 58.
2 M a r o u z e a u , Lexique de la terminologie linguistique, Paris, 1933, p . 128.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
t h o u g h in developed L a t i n o f p l u r a l f o r m , refers to a
single city, whereas in the other n a m e s I h a v e q u o t e d the
plurality of the entities n a m e d is b e y o n d dispute.
T h e thesis that p r o p e r n a m e s referring to pluralities
refer to them g l o b a l l y a n d for that reason m a y be con-
sidered individual names becomes u n t e n a b l e w h e n proper
n a m e s are o f plural f o r m a n d h a v e nevertheless singulars
o f their o w n . I n quite early times tribal n a m e s like Veneti,
Helvetii a p p e a r to h a v e h a d no corresponding singulars,
b u t that they were not, or not always, t h o u g h t o f g l o b a l l y
is s h o w n b y the possibility o f sentences like Venetorum alii
fugerunt, alii occisi sunt. W e m a y dismiss f r o m the discussion
n a m e s like Δαναοί, Παλασγοί, the singulars o f w h i c h desig-
nate the e p o n y m o u s hero. E x c e p t for the reason a b o v e
m e n t i o n e d Veneti m i g h t seem pretty well on a p a r w i t h
the Seychelles, the Pyrenees ; one c a n n o t speak o f α Seychelle or
a Pyrenee. Difficulties arise, however, over Mfßoi a n d
Πέρσαι, w h i c h at first encounter us in the guise ofpluralia
tantum, but later evolve the singulars Μήδος a n d Πίρσψ,
no m o m e n t a r y creations, b u t p e r m a n e n t forms that h a v e
well earned their status as words o f the G r e e k l a n g u a g e .
H e r e w e find a p h e n o m e n o n rather similar, e x c e p t that
it is no m o m e n t a r y creation, to duae Galliae, b u t w h e r e a s
there a singulare tantum has developed a p l u r a l b y c u t t i n g
the designated entity, like a w o r m , into t w o parts a n d
m a k i n g these into t w o similarly n a m e d entities, here a
plurale tantum has been resolved into its c o m p o n e n t indivi-
d u a l members, each o f w h o m is thus represented as a
b e a r e r o f the p r o p e r n a m e in question. It must b e
clearly understood that Μήδος a n d Πίρσης are o n l y in a
restricted sense n a m e s o f i n d i v i d u a l M e d e s a n d Persians,
since these will h a v e possessed particular n a m e s o f their
o w n . Nevertheless, since ol Mffioi m e a n s 'the M e d e s ' ,
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
MfjSos will m e a n 'a M e d e ' , j u s t as it m i g h t c o n c e i v a b l y
b e c o m e possible one d a y to speak o f a Seychelle or a Pyrenee.
T h e p l u r a l o f MfjSos forbids us to regard the singular as
signifying 'one belonging to the M e d e s ' , t h o u g h w e m u s t
regard Romanus as m e a n i n g 'one b e l o n g i n g to R o m e ' , un
Français as 'one belonging to F r a n c e ' , a n d Englishman as
'a m a n b e l o n g i n g to E n g l a n d or the English'. T h e s e last,
like the adjectives identical or c o n n e c t e d w i t h t h e m (cf.
also gens Claudia), are no m o r e t h a n derivatives o f p r o p e r
names, since they d o not identify the m a n to w h o m they
refer, b u t m e r e l y describe h i m as b e l o n g i n g to the c o u n t r y
identified b y the proper n a m e . MfjSos, I m a i n t a i n , is m o r e
o f a p r o p e r n a m e than Romanus a n d belongs, like sur-
n a m e s a n d gentile names, to the class o f ' c o m m o n p r o p e r
names', t h o u g h surnames, for the reason that they w e r e
designations o f individuals at the start, are even m o r e in-
disputably e x a m p l e s o f the c a t e g o r y 'proper n a m e ' .

IX

I t appears to b e equally true that not all singular n a m e s


are proper names. T h i s w a s also M i l l ' s opinion, for it
will be r e m e m b e r e d (see p p . 2 2 - 2 3 ) that held p r o p e r
n a m e s to b e merely a sub-class o f singular names. His re-
marks on the other sub-class are, h o w e v e r , unsatisfactory,
a n d it is necessary to subject t h e m to careful analysis.
Since in his a c c o u n t of p r o p e r n a m e s he lays all the stress
on their b e i n g non-connotative, it w a s n a t u r a l for h i m to
emphasize the connotative n a t u r e o f such singular n a m e s
as are not p r o p e r names. B u t one c a n h a r d l y refrain f r o m
astonishment to find h i m q u o t i n g as authentic e x a m p l e s
the f o l l o w i n g : the only son of John Stiles·, the first emperor of
Rome ; the author of the Iliad ; the murderer of Henri Quatre. H e
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
does not note, nor w i l l I d w e l l on, the fact that all these
examples contain p r o p e r as well as g e n e r a l names. T h e
sole objection I shall m a k e is that M i l l here introduces a
liew kind o f linguistic p h e n o m e n o n not strictly c o m p a r -
a b l e to the n a m e s that h a v e been the m a i n subject o f his
c h a p t e r . T h i s has been chiefly d e v o t e d to discussing the
constitutional nature o f isolated words, t h o u g h it must b e
confessed he sometimes mixes u p w i t h t h e m ad hoc c o m -
binations like this table. I f it be retorted that in m y m a n y -
w o r d proper names I h a v e been guilty o f the same error
o f m e t h o d , I shall reply that there is a w o r l d o f difference
b e t w e e n designations o f a c k n o w l e d g e d p e r m a n e n c e ,
w h i c h are genuine word-equivalents, a n d collocations o f
w o r d s capriciously p u t together on the spur o f the m o m e n t
for a set c o m m u n i c a t i v e purpose. I n m y o w n terminology
M i l l ' s examples are facts o f Speech, not o f L a n g u a g e , a n d
it w a s stipulated at the beginning o f this essay (pp. 1 2 - 1 3 )
that our investigation should extend o n l y to the latter. I t
is true that in some o f m y m a n y - w o r d n a m e s (e.g. Edgar
Allan Poe) the coherence o f the parts is m u c h slighter t h a n
in others (e.g. Mont Blanc), b ü t if required, I a m quite
r e a d y to jettison the former. A t all events, M i l l ' s e x a m p l e s
are o f entirely different quality, a n d must, a c c o r d i n g l y ,
be dismissed as irrelevant. I shall return to such 'descrip-
tions' in another context.
M i l l h a d previously suggested sun a n d God as e x a m p l e s
o f connotative singular names, a n d the former is really
w o r t h y o f the most serious consideration, t h o u g h it m a y
be d o u b t e d w h e t h e r c o n n o t a t i v e is e x a c t l y the right w o r d
to describe its m e a n i n g f u l q u a l i t y . T h a t sun is not a
proper n a m e will b e a d m i t t e d b y all w h o h a v e a feeling
for l a n g u a g e , w h i c h is n o t so b a d a criterion as some w o u l d
h a v e us suppose. O n e has only to p u t the w o r d s sun a n d
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
moon alongside Sam a n d Munro to feel their difference o f
status, a n d indeed our task m a y b e defined as to discover
a sound intellectual basis for w h a t w e a l r e a d y k n o w in-
stinctively. A l s o the e m p l o y m e n t o f the definite article
w i t h the w o r d for 'sun' in a n u m b e r o f different l a n -
guages, is, as I h a v e already p o i n t e d out (p. 2 1 ) , v a l u a b l e
testimony to that conclusion. N o r does M i l l c l a i m sun as a
p r o p e r n a m e ; his rejection o f it is o n the g r o u n d that it is
not really a singular n a m e . H i s a r g u m e n t runs as follows :*

'These, however, (i.e. sun and God) are scarcely examples of


what we are now attempting to illustrate, being, in strictness
of language, general, not individual names : for, however they
may be in fact predicable only of one object, there is nothing
in the meaning of the words themselves which implies this ;
and accordingly, when we are imagining and not affirming,
we m a y speak of many suns; and the majority of mankind
have believed, and still believe, that there are many gods.'
It is a curious, a n d obviously unjustifiable d e m a n d , per-
haps inspired b y the words only a n d first in t w o o f the c o m -
binations o f w o r d s w h i c h w e r e q u o t e d a b o v e as M i l l ' s
authentic e x a m p l e s o f c o n n o t a t i v e singular names, t h a t
the m e a n i n g o f these should h a v e to contain some sugges-
tion o f their singularity. It is a d e m a n d discountenanced
b y the p r o p e r names w h i c h he admits to b e singular
names, since proper n a m e s a c c o r d i n g to his o w n v i e w
h a v e no m e a n i n g , a n d their m e a n i n g , therefore, c a n con-
tain no such suggestion. H i s a r g u m e n t that sun is not
really p r e d i c a b l e only o f o n e o b j e c t , because at w i l l w e
c a n i m a g i n e several suns, w o u l d e q u a l l y exclude p r o p e r
names f r o m b e i n g singular n a m e s , since, as w e h a v e seen
(pp. 13—15), there is no difficulty at all in i m a g i n i n g t w o
Shakespeares or t w o Goethes. A better a r g u m e n t w o u l d
1 Mill, op. cit., Bk. I, c h . 2, § 5.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
h a v e been that astronomers h a v e n o w p r o v e d that the
stars are really suns, these like our sun p e r h a p s the centres
o f solar systems o f their o w n . But this a r g u m e n t too is not
a g o o d one, since in speaking o f the stars as suns, w e d o
not use sun in its n a t u r a l a n d n o r m a l sense o f the large a n d
brilliant celestial b o d y w h i c h , e x c e p t to the m i n d o f
Science, rises in the east a n d sets in the west. M i l l himself
has defined a n i n d i v i d u a l or singular n a m e as o n e ' w h i c h
is o n l y c a p a b l e o f b e i n g truly affirmed, in the same sense,
[the italics are mine] o f o n e thing'. 1 If, none the less, sun
is refused the r a n k o f a singular n a m e on a c c o u n t o f the
stellar suns that astronomers h a v e so inconveniently
discovered, I shall fall b a c k on the L a t i n sol,2 the G r e e k
ήλίος, a n d the H e b r e w shemesh. T h e r e is not a scrap o f
evidence to suggest that either o f the t w o latter w a s ever
used in the plural, or t h o u g h t o f otherwise than as a
singular n a m e . N o r w e r e a n y o f these n o r m a l l y taken as
p r o p e r names, t h o u g h Sol a n d "Ηλιος b e c a m e so on the
occasions w h e n they w e r e personified, i.e. e n d o w e d w i t h
a n t h r o p o m o r p h i c attributes.
S i n g u l a r n a m e s that are not proper n a m e s are far f r o m
numerous. A s other e x a m p l e s I submit for consideration
moon, paradise, hell, ecliptic, zenith, nadir, sky, zodiac, demiurge,
Zero, chaos, pole-star ; b u t zodiac will possibly b e c l a i m e d as a
collective, a n d chaos a n d pole-star are sometimes regarded
as p r o p e r names. It is not quite clear, m o r e o v e r , w h y
n a m e s o f diseases like cholera a n d tuberculosis should b e
e x c l u d e d , or a g a i n n a m e s o f elements like strontium or o f
materials like wood.* S o m e h a v e d e c l a r e d strontium, helium,
See above, p. 22.
1

Soles in the sense of 'days' is another e x a m p l e of the type of duae


2

Galliae, b u t with a superadded temporal nuance.


3 M i l l (op. cit., Bk. i, c h . 2, § 5) points out that abstracts are non-con-

notative, but declares that some at least are general (§ 4), e.g. colour.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
a n d so forth to be proper names, b u t here w h a t I should
like to call the L a w o f Serial U n i f o r m i t y stands in the w a y
on a c c o u n t o f such names o f elements as gold a n d silver.
T h e d o u b t f u l categorization o f several o f the a b o v e
e x a m p l e s y e t once a g a i n shows t h a t w e must not r e g a r d
the c a t e g o r y o f proper n a m e s as a rigidly d e m a r c a t e d
d o m a i n , b u t rather as a sort o f e m i n e n c e attained b y a
large n u m b e r o f words, t h o u g h their foothold is often
s o m e w h a t insecure a n d m a y b e m a d e more so b y a n
incautious step in one direction or another.

S u m m i n g u p the results a l r e a d y o b t a i n e d w e see that the


identification o f proper n a m e s (κυρια) w i t h those t h a t are
i n d i v i d u a l l y (Ihiws) used, a n d the contrast o f these w i t h
those used c o m m o n l y (κοινώ?) does not p r o v i d e a w a t e r -
tight definition, since there exist i n d i v i d u a l l y a p p l i e d
n a m e s (e.g. ηλως) w h i c h are not p r o p e r names, a n d c o m -
m o n l y a p p l i e d n a m e s (surnames a n d MfjSos, & c . ) w h i c h
are. A t best Dionysius' a c c o u n t describes an a p p r o x i -
m a t e l y true state o f affairs. T h u s m u c h m a y be a l l o w e d in
its f a v o u r , since most i n d i v i d u a l l y used single-word
n a m e s are in fact proper n a m e s — t h e y include a m a j o r i t y
o f singular names a n d some collectives, see a b o v e — w h i l e
most c o m m o n nouns are not. 1 I t is n o w evident that the

Abstracts like propinquity and homogeneity are presented to us by L a n g u a g e


as singular names, b u t Speech might c o n c e i v a b l y use even these, like all
singular nouns whatsoever, as general names, i.e. a writer might choose
to write There exist many propinquities, a propinquity of place and a propinquity
of kinship, for example.
1 In m y book on Speech and Language, p. 4 1 , I wrongly defined a proper

n a m e as a w o r d referring to a single i n d i v i d u a l . In this mistake, h o w e v e r ,


I a m in g o o d c o m p a n y , both the Oxford English Dictionary a n d Prof.
W y l d ' s Universal English Dictionary sharing in the error.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
secret o f the proper n a m e is not to b e discovered a l o n g
the lines followed b y Dionysius, a n d w e consequently fall
b a c k u p o n the criterion o f meaninglessness a d v o c a t e d b y
M i l l . B u t this criterion a g a i n will not suffice in its present
f o r m . It is easy to show that proper n a m e s h a v e m e a n i n g
in various c o m m o n non-technical senses o f the term, a n d
that their m e a n i n g m a y be a c q u i r e d in different ways.
A t this point w e h a d better p a r t c o m p a n y w i t h M i l l ' s
m u c h disputed term 'connotation', w h i c h has c o m e in for
p e r h a p s even more t h a n its fair share o f criticism.
I f ' m e a n i n g ' be t a k e n to signify simply ' e x c h a n g e -
v a l u e ' , then obviously all proper n a m e s h a v e m e a n i n g ,
since they are w o r d s a n d every w o r d is a sound-sign
standing for something, this something b e i n g its e x c h a n g e -
v a l u e . It must be carefully observed that the m e a n i n g or
e x c h a n g e - v a l u e o f a w o r d can never, in strict p a r l a n c e ,
be a material thing, b u t is simply the m e n t a l c o u n t e r p a r t
o f that thing, if indeed the w o r d refers to a n y t h i n g
material at all. T h e m e a n i n g m a y comprise a visual or
other i m a g e a n d must consist o f k n o w l e d g e o f w h a t e v e r
the w o r d means. B u t in the case o f a p r o p e r n a m e , say the
n a m e o f a person or p l a c e , w e m a y k n o w next to n o t h i n g
a b o u t that person or place. I n such circumstances are w e
entitled to say that the m e a n i n g o f the w o r d is nil ? I d o
not think so, a n d comparison w i t h other w o r d s that are
not p r o p e r n a m e s shows w e are not entitled to take that
v i e w . W h e n d e a l i n g w i t h foreign l a n g u a g e s w e are often
at a loss for the m e a n i n g o f a w o r d , a n d the like some-
times happens even w h e n concerned w i t h English. F i n d -
i n g ourselves in this embarrassment, w e d o not assert that
t h e w o r d has no m e a n i n g , but w e h a v e recourse to the
dictionary. I f w e d o not k n o w the m e a n i n g , s o m e b o d y
does, a n d w e n a t u r a l l y seek help from those best informed
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
on the subject. T h e r e is no reason w h y proper n a m e s
should be r e g a r d e d in a different light. For a p r o p e r n a m e
to exist, it is necessary that there should be someone
interested in, a n d h a v i n g at least some k n o w l e d g e of, that
w h i c h it names, a n d this k n o w l e d g e , w h e t h e r g r e a t or
small, must evidently be a c c e p t e d as the m e a n i n g . A n d
since m a n y p r o p e r names n a m e things o f extreme c o m -
plexity like persons and places, it is little w o n d e r that
Jespersen argues, 1 in conscious contradiction o f M i l l , t h a t
such names, so far from being meaningless, are absolutely
the most m e a n i n g f u l o f all.
B u t M i l l has anticipated this a r g u m e n t , a n d meets it
as follows : 2

'When we predicate of anything its proper name ; when w e


say, pointing to a man, this is Brown or Smith, or pointing to
a city, that it is York, we do not, merely by so doing, convey
to the reader 3 any information about them except that those
are their names. By enabling him to identify the individuals,
we may connect them with information previously possessed
by· him ; by saying, This is York, w e m a y tell him that it con-
tains the Minster. But this is in virtue of what he has pre-
viously heard concerning York ; not by anything implied in
the name.'

M i l l goes on to contrast the p r o p e r n a m e s a l r e a d y dis-


cussed w i t h the ' m a n y - w o r d e d c o n n o t a t i v e n a m e ' built of
marble in the sentence The town is built of marble. O f the
latter c o m b i n a t i o n o f words he says, in conclusion : ' T h e y
are not mere marks, b u t more, t h a t is to say, significant
m a r k s ; a n d the connotation is w h a t constitutes their
significance.'

' O . Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar, L o n d o n , 1924, p p . 6 4 - 7 1 .


2 M i l l , op. cit., Bk. I, ch. 2, § 5.
3 ' R e a d e r ' in Mill's text is, of course, a slip ; he meant 'listener'.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
A t first sight the conclusions o f the last t w o p a r a g r a p h s
a p p e a r both true, b u t contradictory. A r e these c o n c l u -
sions really i r r e c o n c i l a b l e ? C a n a p r o p e r n a m e be b o t h
m e a n i n g f u l a n d meaningless? I believe it possible, a n d
that the seeming contradiction lies in the v a r y i n g degree
o f i m m e d i a c y (in b o t h the e t y m o l o g i c a l a n d the t e m p o r a l
senses o f the term) possessed, o n the one h a n d b y proper
names, a n d on the other h a n d b y w o r d s that are not.
O r d i n a r y words, a m o n g w h i c h general n a m e s p l a y a pro-
m i n e n t part, directly c o n v e y information ; p r o p e r n a m e s
merely provide the key to information. T o hark b a c k to
M i l l ' s o w n e x a m p l e , York certainly does not m e a n
cathedral-town, b u t it provides any k n o w l e d g e a b l e listener
w i t h a d a t u m w h i c h , after only the slightest interval for
reflection, will b r i n g to his consciousness the fact that the
t o w n he is b e h o l d i n g possesses a c a t h e d r a l ; the same
n a m e will doubtless recall to his m e m o r y other informa-
tion as well. U l t i m a t e l y York will p r o v e m u c h more in-
f o r m a t i v e t h a n cathedral-town, b u t in itself it does no more
t h a n establish the identity o f the t o w n spoken a b o u t . I n
order to describe the q u a l i t y in the possession o f w h i c h
cathedral-town has the a d v a n t a g e over York, M i l l has wisely
chosen the term ' c o n n o t a t i o n ' , h o w e v e r disputable his
further doctrines in c o n n e x i o n w i t h that t e r m m a y be.
Doubtless one m o t i v e for that choice w a s to g u a r d him-
self against the o b j e c t i o n that the i d e n t i f y i n g p o w e r o f
a p r o p e r n a m e is, o f itself, ' m e a n i n g ' .

XI

W e must n o w inquire into the principle u n d e r l y i n g the


practice of n a m i n g , a n d following u p o u r answer to this
question ask in w h a t sense a p r o p e r n a m e is more
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
g e n u i n e l y a n a m e than other n a m e s . For this p u r p o s e it
will be necessary to cast a r a p i d g l a n c e at the n a t u r e o f
L a n g u a g e a n d at its m o d e o f f u n c t i o n i n g . L a n g u a g e owes
its existence to the fact that e x c e p t in a v e r y g e n e r a l a n d
indefinite w a y the minds o f h u m a n beings are closed to
one another. S y m p a t h y there often is, a n d o c c a s i o n a l
thought-transference o f a mysterious kind need n o t b e
denied, b u t b r o a d l y speaking, if a m a n wishes to b r i n g
something he has perceived or t h o u g h t o f to the notice o f
a c o m p a n i o n he c a n effect this o n l y b y recourse to signifi-
c a n t signs accessible to the senses o f both a n d b e a r i n g for
both the same m e a n i n g or reference to thought. S u c h a
sign m a y in theory be a n y t h i n g perceptible to the senses
a n d easily p r o d u c e d b y the m a k e r o f the c o m m u n i c a t i o n ,
b u t w h a t w e call L a n g ü a g e provides far a n d a w a y the
most effective code, its instruments b e i n g distinctive
sound-signs, so intimately b o u n d u p e a c h w i t h its o w n
distinctive t h o u g h t or m e a n i n g t h a t the purposeful utter-
ance i m m e d i a t e l y evokes in the listener the c o r r e s p o n d i n g
thought. T h e m e c h a n i s m o f L a n g u a g e , i.e. the process
called S p e e c h , is c o m p a r a b l e to t h a t o f a p i a n o . I f the
performer strikes the w h i t e key l y i n g b e t w e e n t w o isolated
b l a c k keys, the note D is o b t a i n e d , w h i l e the note E results
j u s t as i n e v i t a b l y f r o m striking the next w h i t e key to the
right. I n L a n g u a g e the fixed c o m b i n a t i o n o f sound-sign
a n d corresponding t h o u g h t is c a l l e d a ' w o r d ' , a n d the
relation b e t w e e n these t w o constituents o f a w o r d is e v e n
m o r e a r b i t r a r y than that b e t w e e n the key o f the p i a n o
a n d its resultant note. T h e r e s e m b l a n c e b e t w e e n a d o g
a n d a w o l f is so great that, if L a n g u a g e h a d b e e n m o r e
deliberately created, one m i g h t h a v e e x p e c t e d a corres-
p o n d i n g resemblance b e t w e e n the t w o names. S u c h
correspondences are not alien to L a n g u a g e altogether, as
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
the declensions a n d c o n j u g a t i o n s clearly show. But on
the whole, linguistic signs are a r b i t r a r y , so that diverse
l a n g u a g e s show v e r y diverse w o r d s for the same object,
e.g. F r e n c h maison, L a t i n domus, G r e e k οΐκος, A r a b i c bayt
for w h a t w e call a house.
T h e house w e speak o f w i t h a n y one o f these w o r d s need
not b e present to our senses, a n d indeed w h a t the w o r d
calls u p to our minds i m m e d i a t e l y , w h e t h e r or not it is
referred an instant later to a n actual house, is the impres-
sion left b y the houses w e h a v e seen in the past, or w h a t w e
h a v e learnt a b o u t t h e m in some other w a y . S i n c e one
house differs from a n o t h e r , a n d as most objects desig-
nated b y c o m m o n nouns show similar differences, the
impression left b y the w o r d m a y (unless represented b y
a visual image, as in m a n y minds) be v a g u e a n d s h a d o w y ,
a n d all that the w o r d c a n then d o is to p u t the listener on
the right track a n d p r e v e n t h i m thinking o f a c o w or a
d o g w h e n desired to b e thinking a b o u t a house. N o w
w h e t h e r the t h o u g h t or impression corresponding to a
w o r d , i.e. w h a t w e m a y call the w o r d ' s ' m e a n i n g ' , b e
something v a g u e or s o m e t h i n g precise, the f u n d a m e n t a l
principle involved is, as I h a v e a l r e a d y mentioned,
'distinctive sounds for distinctive m e a n i n g s ' , a n d such
sounds are called 'words'. 1 I n cases w h e r e the m e a n i n g
is v a g u e , it is obviously less usual to think b a c k from the
m e a n i n g to the sound, a n d a c c o r d i n g l y the term ' n a m e '
finds its greatest utility w h e r e the t h i n g n a m e d is precise,

1 It is of importance to note that the immediate effect of a word-sound

c a n only be to identify, and that its distinguishing p o w e r is only secondary


and consequential. M i l l seems to h a v e been a w a r e of this, b u t does not
state it explicitly. S p e a k i n g o f proper names, he m o r e often stresses their
identifying function, but occasionally, as in his comparison with the act
of M o r g i a n a (see below, p. 39), h e alludes to their distinguishing func-
tion, so that the opening sentence of the present essay can stand.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
a n d w h e r e the utterance o f the w o r d - s o u n d points t o w a r d s
earlier memories o f the s a m e thing, not towards some
impression w h i c h , o w i n g to its vagueness, w o u l d b e
e q u a l l y a p p l i c a b l e to a n y n u m b e r o f r o u g h l y similar
things. O t h e r w i s e expressed, a true n a m e o u g h t to call
u p the t h o u g h t o f something d e t e r m i n a t e a n d definite,
so m u c h so that w e n o r m a l l y forget that all a w o r d c a n
d o is to c o n j u r e u p a thought. F o r g e t t i n g this, w e n a t u r a l l y
a n d conveniently say that a true n a m e is the n a m e o f a
definite thing. 1
I n the last p a r a g r a p h the expression 'true n a m e ' has
been e m p l o y e d , since a true n a m e is not necessarily a
proper n a m e , as must n o w be explained. I t is a w e l l -
k n o w n psychological l a w that the m i n d selects f r o m e v e r y
experience that w h i c h is useful to it, a n d allows all else to
fade o u t completely, or at least to b e relegated into the
b a c k g r o u n d o f the subconscious. A g o o d e x e m p l i f i c a t i o n
o f this l a w has j u s t been q u o t e d : e x c e p t u p o n reflection,
or in scientific analysis, w e are unconscious that all a w o r d
c a n o f itself d o is to refer us to a n associated t h o u g h t ; w e ,
h a v i n g received that thought, a u t o m a t i c a l l y refer it to t h e
thing that seems relevant in t h e context or situation.
H e n c e the t h i n g is often supposed to be the m e a n i n g o f the
w o r d , t h o u g h , o n an a c c u r a t e analysis, that it c a n n e v e r
be. B u t the psychological l a w h a s another e q u a l l y i m p o r -
tant consequence. So intent are w e o n the things referred
to b y the words w e hear, t h a t unless some p e c u l i a r
circumstance like a m i s p r o n u n c i a t i o n or a p a r t i c u l a r

1 M i l l (op. cit., Bk. I, ch. 2, § 1) w a s quite clear on this point, b u t

sensibly prefers to speak in general of names as being the n a m e s of things,


not of ideas of things. For this reason it c a n n o t be quoted against the open-
ing statement of this essay that op. cit., Bk. I, ch. 2, § 5, he says of proper
names : ' W e p u t a mark, not indeed u p o n the object itself, but, so to
speak, u p o n the idea of the object.'
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
elegance o f diction distracts our attention, w e b a r e l y
perceive the sound o f the w o r d , t h o u g h this sound re-
mains all the while the instrument b y w h i c h c o m m u n i c a -
tion is actually effected. I n j u s t the same spirit, w h e n w e
travel to L o n d o n b y train, w e m a y w e l l be thinking o f
L o n d o n a n d w h a t w e shall d o w h e n w e get there, b u t it
seldom crosses our thoughts that a c o m p l e x steam-driven
m e c h a n i s m is w h a t is b r i n g i n g a b o u t the fulfilment o f our
purpose.
A t this point the e v i d e n c e o f the w o r d sun proves o f in-
estimable v a l u e . N o o n e c a n deny the definiteness o f the
sun, or the fact that the w o r d sun directs o u r attention to
that celestial b o d y , or to the t h o u g h t o f it, b y m e a n s o f
o u r previous memories o f that selfsame b o d y , i.e. b y
means o f the m e a n i n g o f the w o r d sun. N o one c a n d e n y
that sun is the 'true n a m e ' o f the sun in the sense a b o v e
attributed to the term. B u t not only logicians, b u t also
the c o m m o n consent o f m a n k i n d , as attested b y the use
o f the definite article the sun, agrees that 'sun' is not a
proper name. 1 Surely the reason is that w h e n the w o r d
sun is heard, w e usually a n d p r e d o m i n a n t l y are un-
conscious of the sound o f that w o r d ; the w o r d to us is all
m e a n i n g . It is difficult to define e x a c t l y the j u m b l e o f
visual, tactile, a n d c o n c e p t u a l impressions w h i c h the
w o r d sun resuscitates in our minds, b u t that notions o f
brightness, w a r m t h , vitalizing p o w e r , superior size to all
other celestial bodies e x c e p t the m o o n , association w i t h
d a y a n d so forth are a m o n g t h e m no one will dispute.
Further, it is o f great importance that these notions

1 (It is on this point that philologists and at least one philosopher

definitely part c o m p a n y . Russell, Human Knowledge, p. 87, explicitly


states the moon—this of course on the same footing as the sun—to be a
proper name.)
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
should be c o m m o n to all m a n k i n d , so m u c h so that they
spring into consciousness in a n u n m i s t a k a b l e , t h o u g h u n -
differentiated, w a y as soon as the w o r d is p r o n o u n c e d .
So p r o m i n e n t is all this m e a n i n g that beside it the
sound o f the w o r d is as n o u g h t ; the m i n d passes right
t h r o u g h the sound a n d is arrested only b y the m e a n i n g .
M i l l misses the point in his discussion o f the w o r d sun
as a g e n e r a l n a m e . It is i n d e e d potentially a g e n e r a l
n a m e , because if any other entity except our o w n sun
h a d the same qualities the s a m e w o r d sun w o u l d h a v e
to b e used to denote it w i t h brevity a n d inclusive-
ness. B u t it is p r e d o m i n a n c e o f the m e a n i n g over the
sound that makes it a g e n e r a l n a m e , not the factual or
i m a g i n a r y existence o f other objects possessing the same
qualities.
L e t us n o w , however, consider w h a t w o u l d h a p p e n if
there existed in the heavens a second celestial b o d y almost
identical in nature w i t h o u r sun, but w h i c h w e w e r e
interested to distinguish f r o m it. O b v i o u s l y to use the
same w o r d sun of both w o u l d be o f no avail ; the m e a n i n g
o f the w o r d w o u l d then serve m e r e l y to m a r k the resem-
b l a n c e o f the t w o suns, b u t w o u l d not help t o w a r d s
distinguishing them. For that purpose a distinctive n a m e
w o u l d h a v e to be found for the second sun, the n a m e sun
b e i n g reserved for our o w n . It is easy to see w h a t w o u l d
h a p p e n to the w o r d sun in that case. T h e i m p o r t a n c e o f
its distinctive sound w o u l d b e greatly e n h a n c e d , since it
w o u l d b e precisely that sound, a n d n o t h i n g else, w h i c h
b y identifying each w o u l d distinguish the one celestial
b o d y f r o m the other. It is clear that in this case Sun w o u l d
h a v e b e c o m e a proper n a m e .
A p r o p e r n a m e is, then, a w o r d w h i c h identifies its
object b y virtue of its sound alone, and w h e n w e c o m e
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
to survey the various classes o f t h i n g to w h i c h p r o p e r
n a m e s belong, w e shall find t w o constant features that
were mentioned in o u r supposed transformation of the
w o r d sun. In the first place, the things called b y proper
n a m e s are mostly m e m b e r s o f a set in w h i c h the resem-
blances considerably o u t w e i g h the differences, so that
special labels, as it were, are required to m a r k the
distinction. A n d in the second place, the a c t u a l n a m e
forces itself u p o n o u r attention more p r o m i n e n t l y t h a n
d o other words. T h i n k o f the place in our lives o c c u -
pied b y christenings a n d introductions o f persons b y
n a m e , inquiries after the names o f places, a n d so
forth. C l e a r l y a p r o p e r n a m e is a w o r d in w h i c h the
identifying, a n d consequently the distinguishing, p o w e r
o f the word-sound is exhibited in its purest a n d most
c o m p e l l i n g form. 1

XII

I t is strange that M i l l has taken so little a c c o u n t o f the


indicative p o w e r o f the distinctive sounds o f p r o p e r n a m e s
a n d has insisted almost exclusively on the negative cri-
terion o f their meaninglessness. T h i s s o m e w h a t distorted
attitude towards the p r o b l e m is one o f the chief points
u p o n w h i c h , in m y opinion, his otherwise correct analysis
needs rectification. T o justify m y criticism it is needful
o n l y to recall the passage in w h i c h he c o m p a r e s a proper
1 F u n k e and M a r t y seem to stand almost alone in emphasizing the

prominence of the sound as a n essential feature of proper names : '. . .


hat M a r t y betont, d a ß M i l l d o c h insofern richtig gesehen hat, als j e n e
Vorstellung des 'so und so Bezeichnetseins' z u m psychischen Wesen des
Eigennamens gehöre,' F u n k e , ' Z u r Definition des Begriffes " E i g e n -
n a m e " , ' in Probleme der englischen Sprache und Kultur, Festschrift für Johannes
Hoops, Heidelberg, 1925, p. 77. Further on Funke's views, see .below,
A p p e n d i x , p. 69.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
n a m e to the u n m e a n i n g m a r k c h a l k e d u p o n a house-door
to indicate that the house is to b e r o b b e d . ' M o r g i a n a ' , he
tells us, 1 'chalked all the other houses in a similar m a n n e r ,
a n d defeated the scheme : h o w ? simply b y o b l i t e r a t i n g
the difference o f a p p e a r a n c e b e t w e e n that house a n d t h e
others. T h e chalk was still there, b u t it no longer served
the purpose o f a distinctive m a r k . ' T h e comparison is n o t
a h a p p y one. I t w o u l d h a v e been apposite o n l y if
M o r g i a n a h a d placed different c h a l k marks u p o n all the
doors, thus m a k i n g it needful for the robber to k n o w , not
merely that the house to b e p l u n d e r e d w a s m a r k e d w i t h
c h a l k , b u t t h r o u g h w h a t p a r t i c u l a r m a r k the house c o u l d
be identified. T h e n a m e John serves to distinguish its
bearer f r o m Philip a n d A r t h u r a n d Percival, not because
these c o m p a n i o n s o f his are nameless, b u t because his
n a m e is different f r o m theirs. I f it b e objected that the
distinctiveness o f the sound is true o f all words, n o t o f
p r o p e r n a m e s alone, b u t o f all w o r d s whatsoever, w e
c a n n o t o f course d e n y that truth, b u t must point o u t that
it m a k e s a vast a m o u n t o f d i f f e r e n c e w h e t h e r the distinc-
tive sound is a self-sufficient m e a n s o f identification, or
w h e t h e r it has to b e assisted, as in general names, b y
consideration o f the m e a n i n g . A w o r d like man c a n n o t b y
itself identify any p a r t i c u l a r m a n . It serves to c o n c e n t r a t e
the attention u p o n a c o m p l e x o f characters not possessed
b y the beings designated b y woman. T h i s c o m p l e x o f
characters is that p a r t o f the m e a n i n g o f the w o r d man
w h i c h holds the attention o f the listener w h e n man is used
in contrast w i t h woman, a n d so i m p o r t a n t a role does that
m e a n i n g p l a y in identifying the i n d i v i d u a l m e a n t t h a t the
sound o f the w o r d , t h o u g h really o f prior a n d f u n d a -
m e n t a l importance, vanishes f r o m consciousness as soon
1 Mill, op. cit., Bk. I , ch. 2, § 5.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
as it has a u t o m a t i c a l l y fulfilled its f u n c t i o n o f d r a w i n g
attention to the c o m p l e x o f characters in question.
T h e purest o f p r o p e r n a m e s are those o f w h i c h the
sounds strike us as w h o l l y arbitrary, yet perfectly distinc-
tive, a n d a b o u t w h i c h w e should feel, if i g n o r a n t of their
bearers, no trace o f m e a n i n g or significance. S u c h n a m e s
are Vercingetorix a n d Popocatepetl. O f course these possess
m e a n i n g in the sense that they are k n o w n to refer to
something, the m e n t a l c o u n t e r p a r t o f that something
constituting the ' m e a n i n g ' . W e m a y even k n o w a g r e a t
d e a l a b o u t the entities designated b y those w o r d s ,
b u t such k n o w l e d g e is completely inoperative in the
f u n c t i o n i n g o f the n a m e . W e must realize that the term
p r o p e r n a m e has reference to the m o d e o f function-
i n g w h i c h certain w o r d s possess w i t h i n the m e c h a n i s m
o f Speech.
T h e i m p o r t a n c e here a t t a c h e d to the sound o f p r o p e r
n a m e s m i g h t possibly be misunderstood w i t h o u t further
e x p l a n a t i o n . It is o f course not m e a n t that p r o p e r n a m e s
are p r o n o u n c e d more l o u d l y or e m p h a t i c a l l y t h a n other
words. By speaking o f the p r o m i n e n c e o f the sound I h a v e
chosen w h a t seemed the clearest a n d shortest w a y o f ex-
pressing the f a c t that a p r o p e r n a m e functions b y means
o f its external distinctiveness, its o u t w a r d contrast w i t h
other words. ' S o u n d ' has here been taken to include the
visible a p p e a r a n c e in writing, w h i c h i n d e e d to m a n y
readers m a y b a r e l y resuscitate the original sound-sensa-
tion at all. N o r does it detract f r o m the truth o f m y a r g u -
m e n t that personal names, whert m o d i f i e d into pet-names
(.Kosenamen), are apt to u n d e r g o deformations w h i c h m a y
disguise them almost o u t o f recognition, e.g. Bobby for
Robert, Harry for Henry. A n extreme instance is the substi-
tution o f Polly for Mary, in w h i c h the stress I h a v e laid
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
u p o n the 'distinctive sound', if misinterpreted, m i g h t
seem to r e d u c e m y thesis to nonsense. L e t it b e u n d e r -
stood, therefore, that w h e n I d w e l l u p o n the 'sound' o f
p r o p e r names, I a m referring o n l y to the p r e p o n d e r a t i n g
attention p a i d to their distinctive sensible externals as
opposed to the associated m e a n i n g s . Proper n a m e s are
identificatory marks r e c o g n i z a b l e , not b y the intellect,
b u t b y the senses.

XIII

W e must n o w return to those p r o p e r names w h i c h , like


Dartmouth incompletely discussed at the b e g i n n i n g o f this
essay, possess as mere w o r d s a n obvious m e a n i n g . I t w a s
seen that the claim o f Dartmouth to b e a p r o p e r n a m e is
not vitiated b y the fact that the t o w n still lies at the m o u t h
o f the D a r t , a n y more t h a n Mont Blanc c o u l d fail to b e a
p r o p e r n a m e because its s u m m i t is covered w i t h snow.
T h e s e n a m e s are proper n a m e s b e c a u s e they are a c c e p t e d
as the designations o f the t o w n a n d the m o u n t a i n in
question, a n d because they are k n o w n to be the r i g h t
linguistic instruments for i d e n t i f y i n g them. H o w e v e r little
logicians m a y like i n t r o d u c i n g p s y c h o l o g i c a l factors into
their cut-and-dried definitions, here it is necessary. O u r
p r o f o u n d skill in the art o f using a n d interpreting w o r d s
has led us to acquire a n i m p l i c i t awareness o f their
different species a n d o f the w a y in w h i c h they are to b e
taken. Unless that awareness w e r e a n objective reality,
the task o f the g r a m m a r i a n w o u l d be n u g a t o r y a n d his
distinctions w h o l l y artificial. I f a n ordinary m a n w i t h o u t
pretensions to g r a m m a t i c a l k n o w l e d g e were asked w h y he
called D a r t m o u t h Dartmouth, the most likely a n s w e r
w o u l d be, 'Because that is its n a m e ' . Possibly, if he
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
suspected that y o u wished for a less obvious reply, he
m i g h t say, 'Because it lies at the m o u t h o f the D a r t ' ; b u t
it will, I think, be a c k n o w l e d g e d that in using the n a m e
t h a t position w o u l d seldom cross his m i n d , a n d it is con-
c e i v a b l e he m i g h t n e v e r think o f it at all. Nevertheless, I
s u b m i t that p r o p e r n a m e s that h a v e a clear e t y m o l o g y or
recall some similarly constructed p r o p e r n a m e are slightly
less p u r e e x a m p l e s o f the c a t e g o r y t h a n c o m p l e t e l y
arbitrary a n d unintelligible names, because for listeners
i g n o r a n t o f the o b j e c t to w h i c h t h e y refer the m e a n -
i n g thus a f f o r d e d m i g h t p r o v i d e some identificatory
help. F o r instance, a sharp-witted peasant w h o k n e w
W e y m o u t h , b u t h a d never h e a r d o f D a r t m o u t h , m i g h t ,
as w e say, p u t t w o a n d t w o together, a n d c o n c l u d e
that a town was intended. A n d for e x a c t l y the same
reason names like John a n d Mary, Heinrich a n d Giovanni,
Freiburg a n d Deauville are less p u r e p r o p e r n a m e s t h a n
the purest because o f the assistance that, o n rare occa-
sions, they m i g h t give b y their suggestion o f sex,
nationality, or c o u n t r y .

XIV

A f e w pages farther b a c k a definition o f p r o p e r n a m e s


w a s incidentally g i v e n w h i c h w o u l d suffice if all w o r d s
b e a r i n g the title w e r e u p to the s t a n d a r d o f Vercingetorix
or Popocatepetl. H o w e v e r , both g r a m m a t i c a l custom a n d
the necessities o f the case m a k e it reasonable to extend
the term to e x a m p l e s o f less absolute p u r i t y , a n d it be-
comes consequently necessary to f o r m u l a t e the definition
in a longer a n d m o r e c o m p l i c a t e d w a y . I submit the
f o l l o w i n g to the consideration o f philologists a n d logi-
cians :
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
A proper name is a word or group of words recognized as
indicating or tending to indicate the object or objects to
which it refers by virtue of its distinctive sound alone, with-
out regard to any meaning possessed by that sound from
the start, or acquired by it through association with the said
object or objects.

A f e w glosses are required to e x p l a i n w h y the defini-


tion has h a d to be expressed in so c u m b e r s o m e a f o r m .
O r g r o u p o f words' needs to b e a d d e d o n a c c o u n t o f
w h a t I h a v e called 'composite p r o p e r names' (p. 20).
' R e c o g n i z e d as indicating' instead o f ' w h i c h indicates'
is d e m a n d e d b y the considerations a d d u c e d o n p. 4 1 .
' T e n d i n g to indicate' is d u e to the existence o f h o m o n y m s
a m o n g p r o p e r names (p. 16), ' o b j e c t or objects' to the
existence o f collective a n d p l u r a l specimens (pp. 2 2 - 2 5 ) .
I n stating that a proper n a m e b e c o m e s such b e c a u s e the
indication it gives is given ' b y v i r t u e o f its distinctive
sound alone' I wish to i m p l y t h a t 'the term proper n a m e
has reference to the m o d e o f f u n c t i o n i n g w h i c h certain
w o r d s possess within the m e c h a n i s m o f S p e e c h ' , a thesis
e x p l a i n e d in the p a r a g r a p h t h a t concludes w i t h that
sentence (p. 40). ' M e a n i n g possessed b y that sound f r o m
the start,' see p p . 4 1 - 2 ; ' t h r o u g h association w i t h the said
o b j e c t or objects', see the discussions o f York (pp. 3 1 - 3 2 )
a n d o f sun (pp. 3 6 - 3 7 ) .

XV

T h e constructive side o f our task is not yet ended. Before


criticizing the views p r o m u l g a t e d b y B e r t r a n d Russell
a n d his school w e must survey the classes o f objects t h a t
call for designation b y p r o p e r names, a n d must e x p l a i n
the reasons for w h i c h they d o so. O n a c c o u n t o f the
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
i m p o r t a n c e that has b e e n a t t a c h e d to the w o r d sun it w i l l
be well to consider first o f all the n a m e s o f other celestial
bodies, the more so since b o t h p r o p e r a n d g e n e r a l names
are to be f o u n d a m o n g them. S u n a n d m o o n differ so
conspicuously f r o m o n e another a n d f r o m the stars a n d
planets that insistence o n their distinctive n a m e s is not
required. T h e w o r d s sun a n d moon i m m e d i a t e l y s u m m o n
u p mental pictures a n d other psychic responses so distinct,
that no difference o f quality is felt b e t w e e n t h e m a n d
other c o m m o n nouns, a n d the o n l y reason that there
c o u l d be for p l a c i n g t h e m in a n o t h e r c a t e g o r y is their
f a c t u a l uniqueness. V e r y different are the stars, whose
multitude a n d similarity are so g r e a t that p r o p e r n a m e s
are urgently n e e d e d to assert a n d m a i n t a i n their indivi-
duality. N o t all the stars, o f course, h a v e n a m e s o f their
o w n , a n d for the most p a r t they are taken in groups with-
in w h i c h each special star is distinguished b y the e q u i v a -
lent o f an ordinal n u m b e r , e.g. Gamma Pegasi, Alpha of the
Plough. T h e n a m e s o f the groups or constellations are
collective proper names, e.g. Cassiopeia, Perseus, Virgo.
T h e Pleiades p r o v i d e a g o o d e x a m p l e o f a p l u r a l p r o p e r
n a m e . O n l y the planets a n d a f e w o f the most con-
spicuous stars, i.e. those w h i c h attract to themselves more
interest than the rest, e.g. Sirius, Fomalhaut, Vega, h a v e
n a m e s o f their v e r y o w n . N a t u r a l l y all the stars, b y those
w h o are experts in astronomy, c o u l d be identified b y
means o f descriptions, b y the successive ordered a n d inter-
related presentation o f general n a m e s intermingled w i t h
words for spatial relations a n d the like, t h o u g h one or
more proper n a m e s c o u l d h a r d l y fail to b e present. B u t
such descriptions, necessary as they are in order to in-
struct the u n l e a r n e d as to the applications o f the indi-
v i d u a l star-names, w o u l d be v e r y c u m b r o u s linguistic
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
instruments if utilized o n e v e r y occasion. O n l y in r a r e
instances c a n the description o f a star b e m a d e so short
as to compress it into a single w o r d ; pole-star is such a n
instance, a n d this c o m p o u n d w o r d is best taken as a
c o m m o n n o u n , since most o f us, I presume, w o u l d
r e g a r d the n a m e , not as b e i n g a mere meaningless
designation, b u t as signifying that star w h i c h is nearest
to the n o r t h pole.
F r o m the different w a y s in w h i c h the celestial bodies
are n a m e d m u c h c a n be l e a r n t a b o u t the conditions
g o v e r n i n g the d e m a n d for p r o p e r names. A m o n g those
conditions are : ( 1 ) a vast m u l t i t u d e o f entities so similar
that the distinctions b e t w e e n t h e m are difficult to seize
or to describe within brief c o m p a s s ; (2) a n interest
a m o n g a section o f the c o m m u n i t y so u r g e n t t h a t a
single-word designation is sought a n d f o u n d ; (3) g r e a t
utility in a f f o r d i n g fixed points b y reference to w h i c h
other entities c a n b e identified, or in defining the g r o u p
or class w i t h i n w h i c h those other entities c a n b e f o u n d ;
a n d (4) there is a n obvious a d v a n t a g e in a designation
w h i c h c o m p l e t e l y covers its o b j e c t in all its aspects a n d
w h i c h economizes t h o u g h t b y r e n d e r i n g unnecessary
e x p l a n a t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g the n a t u r e a n d relations o f
that object.

XVI

O n e o f the t w o largest classes o f p r o p e r n a m e s is t h a t


w h i c h provides designations for p l a c e s — f o r continents,
countries, provinces, towns, villages, a n d even p r i v a t e
residences, not to speak o f expanses o f water, m o u n t a i n s ,
promontories, a n d so forth. I n this class all the four con-
ditions m e n t i o n e d a b o v e c o m e into p l a y , b u t w i t h
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
differences deserving o f c o m m e n t . ( i ) T h e r e are b u t few
localities in the w o r l d so different f r o m the rest that they
eschew proper n a m e s a n d are h a b i t u a l l y represented b y
brief descriptions ; i n d e e d I c a n instance only the N o r t h
a n d S o u t h Poles. A s regards the similarity o f the entities
n a m e d there is not that degree w h i c h exists b e t w e e n the
stars as seen b y a terrestrial observer, b u t it w o u l d b e a
grievous misrepresentation o f m y p o i n t if someone ob-
j e c t e d that the M e d i t e r r a n e a n a n d L o n d o n h a v e n o t h i n g
in c o m m o n except that both are localities. W h e n sea is
c o m p a r e d w i t h sea a n d t o w n w i t h t o w n the difficulty o f
selecting features characteristic e n o u g h to serve as basis
for differentiating descriptions will b e a p p r e c i a t e d to the
full. T h e fact that places c h a n g e f r o m c e n t u r y to century
is another reason for g i v i n g t h e m i m m u t a b l e names o f
their o w n to e m p h a s i z e their continuity, t h o u g h this
cause o f p r o p e r n a m e s exercises less influence in place-
n a m e s than it does in n a m e s o f persons. (2) T h e interest
w i t h o u t w h i c h no p l a c e w o u l d b e g i v e n a n a m e does not
spring from e x a c t l y the same kind o f source as the interest
that p r o m p t e d the n a m i n g o f the stars. T h e r e the needs
o f mariners a n d o f those concerned w i t h the m e a s u r e m e n t
o f time h a v e co-operated w i t h the scientific p r e o c c u p a -
tions o f a small b o d y o f specialists. A s regards places,
there is scarcely a n y o n e w i t h o u t a h o m e or h a u n t o f his
o w n w h i c h is a vital interest to him, w h e r e a s his concern
w i t h distant places varies greatly a n d in the m a j o r i t y o f
cases is simply non-existent. For this reason most places
are for h i m 'mere n a m e s ' . A g a i n it accords w e l l w i t h
M i l l ' s v i e w o f the meaninglessness o f p r o p e r n a m e s that
place-names c a n p r o v e serviceable w i t h o n l y a m i n i m u m
o f k n o w l e d g e . W h e n a r a i l w a y - j o u r n e y is b e i n g p l a n n e d
one does not stop to inquire details a b o u t the j u n c t i o n s at
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
w h i c h one has to change, nor is m o r e information re-
q u i r e d in g i v i n g a n address t h a n to specify the larger a n d
smaller regions within w h i c h the p a r t i c u l a r p l a c e is
located. T h e interest that different persons display in a
given p l a c e is a p t to be e x t r e m e l y heterogeneous a n d the
virtue o f a p r o p e r n a m e is that, since it e m b r a c e s the
w h o l e o f its object, it caters to all requirements w i t h o u t
bias in a n y direction. (3) It is superfluous to waste w o r d s
over the utility o f p l a c e - n a m e s in l o c a t i n g other p l a c e s
t h a n those designated b y t h e m s e l v e s ; the p o s t m a n a n d
the pedestrian are here the best witnesses.

XVII

I t w o u l d b e tedious to cover the s a m e g r o u n d a g a i n in


reference to personal names, the largest class o f all. Still
it is w o r t h p o i n t i n g out that there is n o h u m a n b e i n g so
w r e t c h e d as to h a v e no n a m e o f his o w n , a n d y e t the
great m a j o r i t y o f people w h o m w e m e e t in the streets o f
a city are o f supreme i n d i f f e r e n c e to us. W h a t is m o r e ,
they look alike, or at all events the distinguishing m a r k s
are not conspicuous e n o u g h for the individuality o f e a c h
to b e u p h e l d b y w o r d s m o r e m e a n i n g f u l t h a n p r o p e r
names. It is o f i m p o r t a n c e for the theory o f personal
names that these a c c o m p a n y their owners, as a rule,
f r o m the c r a d l e to the g r a v e , a n d consequently i d e n t i f y
these owners at every c o n c e i v a b l e stage a n d in e v e r y
situation. I n d e e d , w e m a y pertinently note that a per-
sonality sometimes undergoes t e m p o r a r y eclipse b y
c h a n g e o f n a m e , as in the case o f girls w h o m a r r y or
p r o m i n e n t m e n w h e n elevated to the p e e r a g e .
T h u s m u c h h a v i n g been said, it m a y seem p r o f i t a b l e to
discuss a f e w special p r o b l e m s a n d traits in c o n n e x i o n
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
w i t h persons a n d their names. P e r h a p s someone m i g h t
think fit to ask w h y the n a m e o f some almost universally
k n o w n person, like N a p o l e o n or Shakespeare, does not
lose its quality o f b e i n g a proper n a m e as a consequence
o f a c q u i r i n g m e a n i n g a n d b e c o m i n g a household w o r d . I
c a n picture some r e a d e r o b j e c t i n g : ' I f y o u r hypothesis
concerning sun a n d moon is correct, w h y does not the n a m e
Napoleon present itself to us as a c o m m o n n o u n , seeing that
here, if a n y w h e r e , the m i n d travels right t h r o u g h the
sound to the m e a n i n g ? ' B u t does i t ? F o r the generality o f
m a n k i n d , a n d it is they w h o confer their m e a n i n g u p o n
words, w h e n the sun's roundness, a n d brightness, a n d
w a r m t h , a n d a f e w other traits h a v e been e n u m e r a t e d ,
the m e a n i n g of the w o r d sun is p r a c t i c a l l y exhausted.
W i t h a personal n a m e like Napoleon it is far otherwise.
W h o l e books are r e q u i r e d to set forth the m e a n i n g o f
Napoleon, a n d w h a t the bearer o f the n a m e h a s signified
to his contemporaries a n d to later generations. T h e m e a n -
i n g o f his n a m e b y no m e a n s confines itself to those traits
that h a v e b r o u g h t h i m celebrity. H i s c h i l d h o o d , his
experiences as a lover, his life at St. H e l e n a h a v e all to b e
b r o u g h t into the a c c o u n t . A n o t h e r reason w h i c h w o u l d
suffice to u p h o l d the position o f Napoleon a m i d the ranks
o f proper names is w h a t I h a v e proposed to call the L a w
o f Serial U n i f o r m i t y ; this is at b o t t o m o n l y a manifesta-
tion o f the g e n e r a l i z i n g t e n d e n c y o f the h u m a n m i n d ,
w h i c h assimilates p h e n o m e n a w i t h a v a l i a n t disregard o f
the differences that m a y exist b e t w e e n t h e m . A l l persons
h a v e names o f their o w n , a n d Napoleon is the n a m e o f the
great Corsican. A n d that n a m e c a n n o t fail to b e regarded
b y the linguistic consciousness as a proper n a m e , no
m a t t e r h o w m u c h m o r e significant it m a y b e to the
p u b l i c at large t h a n that o f a n y o r d i n a r y person.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
L e t us n e x t ask h o w far designations like Cook a n d
Father, w h e n e m p l o y e d as v o c a t i v e s or as m e a n s o f refer-
ence, c a n b e considered to b e p r o p e r names. T h e y re-
semble these b y not h a v i n g the article prefixed to t h e m .
H e r e w e c a n n o t avail ourselves o f the antithesis b e t w e e n
L a n g u a g e a n d Speech w h i c h stood us in good stead w h e n
d e a l i n g w i t h examples like a Goethe (p. 13). W e c a n -
not say that Cook is a mere p h e n o m e n o n o f S p e e c h , for
w i t h i n the limited circle w h e r e t h e w o r d serves as substi-
tute for a personal n a m e it has m o r e than a mere ad hoc,
m o m e n t a r y application ; it m a y indeed be stabilized for
years in a f a m i l y as the r e c o g n i z e d designation o f the s a m e
person. T h e g r a m m a r i a n must here forge a n o m e n c l a t u r e
that does justice to the special case, a n d I should propose
to classify Cook, w h e n thus e m p l o y e d , as 'a c o m m o n n o u n
adopted (not merely used) as a p r o p e r n a m e ' . T h e c o n c e p -
tion o f a p r o p e r n a m e as liable to gradations b e c o m e s im-
p e r a t i v e in such instances. U s u a l l y Father is still less o f
a real p r o p e r n a m e t h a n Cook, since, e x c e p t w h e n the
other p a r e n t imitates the p a r l a n c e o f her offspring, Father
is e m p l o y e d only b y those to w h o m its bearer stands in
the p a t e r n a l relation. I pass o v e r the interesting topic o f
nicknames, b u t it is necessary that something should b e
said a b o u t examples like Richard le Spicer a n d Robert le
Long, q u o t e d from a m e d i e v a l roll b y W e e k l e y to illustrate
the w a y in w h i c h c o m m o n E n g l i s h surnames originated.
H e r e it w o u l d be fitting, in m y o p i n i o n , to say that Spicer
a n d Long are a l r e a d y p r o p e r names, i n a s m u c h as their
bearers or else the c o m m u n i t y in w h i c h they lived h a d
evidently decreed it that these designations should b e the
official m e a n s o f establishing their identity. N a t u r a l l y the
spicer (Γépicier) h a d every incentive to advertise his t r a d e ,
a n d it w o u l d be w r o n g h e a d e d to suppose that he wished
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
the m e a n i n g o f that epithet to be ignored. B u t Richard le
Spicer m a y possibly h a v e been l o n g o f l i m b , a n d it is b y
no means certain that Robert le Long w a s not a spicer. T h e
fact that R i c h a r d took le Spicer a n d not a n y other applic-
able attribute to be his epitheton constans p l a i n l y confers o n
le Spicer the right to be considered a p r o p e r n a m e , t h o u g h
o n e rather more questionable t h a n Dartmouth (pp. 4 1 - 4 2 ) ,
a n a m e o f l o n g standing in w h i c h the m e a n i n g doubtless
seldom comes to consciousness.

XVIII

A n u m b e r o f other categories o f p r o p e r n a m e s c a n b e
d e a l t w i t h v e r y r a p i d l y , since o n l y in one particular d o
they teach us a n y t h i n g n e w . A l l ships a n d boats receive
p r o p e r names o f their o w n o n a c c o u n t o f the c o m m e r c i a l
a n d other interest w h i c h they possess for their owners,
t h o u g h not necessarily for the c o m m u n i t y at large. Houses
are not quite so universally a c c o r d e d this m e a n s o f distinc-
tion, since t e m p o r a r y tenants c a n feel little objection to
their place o f residence b e i n g identified b y a n u m b e r .
T h e effective m o t i v e here comes into v i e w . T h e m a n
w h o builds a n e w house for himself or u n e x p e c t e d l y be-
comes the p r o u d possessor o f one is specially apt to m a r k
his satisfaction b y choosing a n a m e for it, a n d the n a m e
chosen is likely to recall some scene o f the name-giver's
previous activity or to reflect some subject o f peculiar
interest to him. T h e like holds good o f the n a m i n g o f
animals, pets, a n d indeed a n y o b j e c t o f h u m a n pride or
affection.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S

XIX

I pass o n to more dubious cases. A n eminent F r e n c h


philologist has c l a i m e d that the n a m e s o f birds w h i c h h e
personally is u n a b l e to identify o n sight are in reality
p r o p e r names. 1 A s previously r e m a r k e d (p. 30), personal
i g n o r a n c e o f the m e a n i n g o f a w o r d — a n d this is a failing
for w h i c h everyone o u g h t to feel the greatest s y m p a t h y -
c a n carry n o w e i g h t in d e t e r m i n i n g its categorization. T o
w h a t c a t e g o r y a w o r d belongs is decided b y the linguistic
feeling o f those best a c q u a i n t e d w i t h the object a n d the
m a n n e r o f its reference, a l t h o u g h the assistance o f g r a m -
m a r i a n a n d dictionary-maker must be i n v o k e d to find
the technical term a p p r o p r i a t e to the definition o f the
feeling. N o w everyone w h o k n o w s that linnets a n d c o r n -
crakes a n d shrikes a n d w h i n c h a t s are birds, a n d that
these are the ordinary English designations o f t h e m , must
sub-consciously place those designations in the s a m e
c a t e g o r y as sparrow a n d thrush, a n d no one w i t h g r a m -
m a t i c a l k n o w l e d g e will d o u b t that sparrow a n d thrush are
c o m m o n names. E x t e r n a l e v i d e n c e for this is f o u n d in the
use o f the articles and the f o r m a t i o n o f plurals w i t h o u t a n y
sense o f incongruence. I f whinchat is felt to b e m o r e o f a
p r o p e r n a m e than sparrow, it is because a p r o p e r n a m e is
m e r e l y a w o r d in w h i c h one feature c o m m o n to all w o r d s
w h a t s o e v e r — t h e p o w e r o f c o n v e y i n g distinctions b y
m e a n s o f distinctive s o u n d s — i s discerned in its purest
form, a n d our attention is d r a w n to the distinctive sound
or w r i t i n g (which is merely sound translated intp a n o t h e r
m e d i u m ) more urgently in the case o f a rare w o r d t h a n
in that o f a c o m m o n one.

1 Vendryes, Le Langage, Paris, 1921, p. 222.


i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
N o n e the less I think a g o o d case m a y be m a d e out for
r e g a r d i n g the scientific L a t i n n a m e s o f birds a n d plants
as more o f proper n a m e s than their c o m m o n English
equivalents. 1 T h e n a m e Brassica rapa easily evokes the
t h o u g h t of a botanist classifying a n u m b e r o f specimens
w h i c h to the l a y m i n d are m u c h alike, a n d to one o f w h i c h
he gives the n a m e Brassica rapa, j u s t as a p a r e n t n a m e s
his b a b y . W e h a v e no such t h o u g h t a b o u t the w o r d
turnip, and Brassica rapa is simply the scientific n a m e for
the ordinary turnip. W e m a y find c o n f i r m a t o r y support
for r e g a r d i n g Brassica rapa as a p r o p e r n a m e , or at least
as m u c h more o f a p r o p e r n a m e t h a n turnip, in the fact
that w e do not say This is a Brassica rapa or These are
Brassica rapas, t h o u g h w e m i g h t say These are fine speci-
mens of Brassica rapa. I n so saying w e a p p e a l to the n a m e
o f a n y single e x a m p l e o f the type, w h e r e a s in speaking o f
a certain v e g e t a b l e as a turnip w e a p p e a l to the similarity
o f that vegetable to others o f its kind. T h e difference o f
linguistic attitude is a mere n u a n c e , b u t it is a real one.
I n the one instance the sound o f the n a m e , w h a t w e
usually describe as 'the n a m e itself', is more in the fore-
g r o u n d than in the other instance.

XX

W h e t h e r or no w e classify the L a t i n n a m e s o f plants


a n d animals as p r o p e r n a m e s — a d m i t t e d l y they are
borderline cases—it is u n d e n i a b l e that in fact those names
refer to things existent in great n u m b e r . I f the contention
o f the last p a r a g r a p h b e deemed w o r t h y o f consideration,

1 Prof. Bröndal (see below p. 69) is the philologist w h o has most clearly

taken this view.


i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
it is inevitable that the d e b a t e should b e extended to n e w
g r o u n d . T h e question w h e t h e r the names o f the m o n t h s
a n d o f the d a y s o f the w e e k should b e r e g a r d e d as p r o p e r
n a m e s is one o f m u c h interest, since different l a n g u a g e s
take different lines a b o u t it. W h e t h e r a l a n g u a g e uses
c a p i t a l letters or not is no proof, t h o u g h it is a s y m p t o m
that m a y b e e m p l o y e d as e v i d e n c e , if care be taken not
to a t t a c h o v e r m u c h i m p o r t a n c e to it. T h e F r e n c h write
jeudi a n d janvier w h e r e w e write Thursday a n d January,
a n d I believe I a m right in s a y i n g that most F r e n c h
g r a m m a r i a n s w o u l d not a d m i t m o n t h - n a m e s a n d d a y -
n a m e s as p r o p e r names. T h a t at all events these n a m e s
are also g e n e r a l names 1 is clear f r o m the facility a n d l a c k
o f strain felt in tous lesjeudis (note the article a n d the p l u r a l
ending) a n d in Mrs. Brown is at home on Thursdays.
Nevertheless, there are details o f usage, e.g. jeudi le 15
mars, w h i c h seem to p l a c e these n a m e s on a d i f f e r e n t
footing f r o m other c o m m o n nouns. I f the p r o b l e m b e
stated in a n o t h e r w a y , it seems likely that the same
answer w o u l d be o b t a i n e d f r o m b o t h F r e n c h m e n a n d
E n g l i s h m e n . I f w e were to ask : ' W h i c h o f the t w o w o r d s
hiver (winter) a n d décembre (December) is m o r e o f a p r o p e r
n a m e t h a n the o t h e r ? ' it w o u l d p r o b a b l y be a d m i t t e d
that the latter should h a v e the preference. T h e reason is
b o t h o b v i o u s a n d interesting. T h e stretches o f time indi-
c a t e d b y the names o f the seasons are felt to b e m o r e con-
trasted in their nature t h a n those indicated b y the
month-names. Contiguous months m a y be m u c h of a
muchness, b u t there is a n u n m i s t a k a b l e difference b e -
t w e e n the seasons. C o n s e q u e n t l y in the n a m e s o f the

1 Here I a v o i d the term ' c o m m o n nouns', since personally I


should classify them, not as such, b u t as ' c o m m o n proper n a m e s ' ,
see p. 19.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
seasons the m e a n i n g plays a greater p a r t in m a r k i n g the
distinction than is p l a y e d b y the m e a n i n g attaching to
the month-names, a n d in the latter correspondingly the
distinctive n a m e , i.e. the distinctive w o r d - s o u n d , exer-
cises a more i m p o r t a n t role in i n d i c a t i n g the period
m e a n t . T h e m o n t h - n a m e is for that reason more o f a
proper n a m e than the n a m e o f the season.
It is a peculiarity o f the months a n d the d a y s o f the
w e e k that a fixed o r d e r belongs to their m e a n i n g . I t
is u n d e n i a b l e that W e d n e s d a y implies the d a y after
T u e s d a y a n d that before T h u r s d a y . Still that m o d i c u m
o f constant m e a n i n g does not compensate for the fact that
the other characters o f the d a y designated b y the n a m e
Wednesday are v a r i a b l e a n d intangible a n d differ f r o m
person to person, so that the n a m e itself is the only thing
w h i c h w e c a n cling to in order to u p h o l d the distinction
b e t w e e n one d a y a n d a n o t h e r .
It is superfluous to discuss feast d a y s like Easter, W h i t -
sunday, L u p e r c a l i a . T o the E n g l i s h m a n at all events the
n a m e s o f these are p r o p e r names, t h o u g h on a c c o u n t o f
their recurring e v e r y y e a r they must j o i n the ranks of the
' c o m m o n proper n a m e s ' .

XXI

T h e r e must be a limit to every discussion, a n d I shall not


linger over the n a m e s o f patent medicines, trade products,
a n d the like, 1 b u t shall turn to some aspects o f the prob-
l e m that h a v e thüs far b e e n a c c o r d e d b u t scanty notice.

1 T o K . Sisam I owe the interesting remark that 'curious examples of

trade names b e c o m i n g c o m m o n occur and create legal difficulties.


Vaseline is a case in point, w h i c h led to a long quarrel between the
c o m p a n y concerned a n d the editors of our Oxford English Dictionary'.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
I n e x p l a i n i n g the distinction b e t w e e n a w o r d a n d a n a m e
I c o m m i t t e d myself to the statement that ' w h e n w e speak
o f a n a m e w e i m p l y that there exists something to w h i c h
a certain sound-sign corresponds' (p. 7). O f w h a t k i n d
is this existence implied w h e n e v e r w e a d m i t the existence
o f a n a m e (an e m b o d i e d p r o p e r n a m e , p. 8) as a n i t e m
b e l o n g i n g to o u r accepted v o c a b u l a r y ? W i t h the e x c e p -
tion o f Scylla a n d Charybdis m e n t i o n e d in the o p e n i n g
p a r a g r a p h I h a v e been careful to d r a w all m y e x a m p l e s
f r o m the m a t e r i a l w o r l d , b u t they m i g h t in m a n y cases
h a v e b e e n e q u a l l y well t a k e n f r o m m y t h o l o g y or fiction.
T h e f a c t is, as I m a i n t a i n e d in m y book on Speech and
Language (p. 296) : 'Speech refers to actual a n d i m a g i n a r y
things w i t h strict impartiality. L a n g u a g e has created no
forms to distinguish the real f r o m the unreal.' T h e con-
text o f t h a t quotation shows that the reality I h a d there in
m i n d w a s 'conformity w i t h the facts o f the (external)
universe', a n d that 'the u n r e a l ' w a s taken as s y n o n y m o u s
w i t h 'existence only in the i m a g i n a t i o n ' . It w o u l d not b e
helpful to b e c o m c e n t a n g l e d in a n ontological a r g u m e n t ,
a n d I must ask m y readers not to interpret m y contention
in this essay as signifying m o r e t h a n that, if w e a d m i t the
possession o f a n a m e in o u r vocabularies, w e simul-
taneously i m p l y the possession in our minds o f s o m e t h i n g
w h e r e o f it is the n a m e . It is true that the s o m e t h i n g in
question m a y b e as unsubstantial as a soap-bubble. S u c h
a n a m e a b l e thing is a l r e a d y there w h e n , w i t h no f u r t h e r
details in our heads, w e start a limerick w i t h There was
an old fellow called Brown. I n this case w e b u i l d u p , or
discover, if y o u prefer it, B r o w n ' s personality as w e g o
a l o n g . T h e characters in a n o v e l h a v e naturally r e c e i v e d
m u c h o f their substance before p e n is p u t to p a p e r . I t
must be realized that a p r o p e r n a m e is not one w h i t less
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
o f a t h o r o u g h b r e d p r o p e r n a m e if its subject 1 is unsub-
stantial. I f I think o f a n i m a g i n a r y m o u n t a i n a n d choose
to call it b y the utterly meaningless n a m e Karimankow,
this n a m e will be e v e r y bit as g o o d a p r o p e r n a m e as
Popocatepetl.
T h e w o r l d o f the i m a g i n a t i o n is a replica o f the w o r l d
o f experience, a n d the p r o p e r n a m e s o f the former belong
to m u c h the same classes as those o f the latter. B u t F a n c y
climbs to higher altitudes, a n d populates its universe w i t h
the gods of O l y m p u s as well as w i t h h u m a n beings. I n the
r e a l m o f m y t h fantastic creatures like the M i n o t a u r a n d
the C e n t a u r s call for n a m e s o f their o w n . T h u s far the
w o r l d created b y the i m a g i n a t i o n m i g h t seem richer
than that o f reality. H o w e v e r , not every t y p e o f real entity
that receives a p r o p e r n a m e c a n be paralleled in fiction.
O n e m i g h t b e h a r d p u t to it to cite the n a m e o f a n i m a g i -
n a r y planet, t h o u g h a m o n g birds w e h a v e the Phoenix
a n d there is a m y t h i c a l ship called the A r g o . T a k i n g a
w i d e r perspective t h a n hitherto, w h e r e shall w e seek the
ultimate source o f p r o p e r names ? M y answer is imperfect
a n d provisional : that source derives f r o m the v e r y nature
o f o u r universe. F o r g o o d or evil the things o f the universe,
a n d more especially its living things, manifest themselves
in localized i n d i v i d u a l f o r m , e a c h d e e p l y rooted in its
o w n environment, b u t less a n d less c o n c e r n e d w i t h alien
environments in p r o p o r t i o n to the distance. M a n alone
has the p o w e r a n d the desire to talk a b o u t the i n d i v i d u a l
things he possesses, a n d his interests b e i n g self-centred,
it is not o f other m e n ' s p r o p e r t y that he is so likely to

1 I n other parts of this essay I h a v e used ' o b j e c t ' in the same sense,
since it seemed the more easily comprehensible term. H e r e for once I
write 'subject' h a v i n g in m i n d that, in speaking o f a w o r d as a ' n a m e '
the direction of thought is f r o m the thing to its sound-sign, not vice versa.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
speak. T o d o h i m justice, the limitations o f time a n d
space p r e v e n t him from even k n o w i n g most o f the things
vital to his fellows farther afield. T h e proprietary instinct
is the seed-ground o f proper n a m e s . E v e r y m a n has his
o w n h o m e a n d family, his o w n goods a n d chattels, his
o w n neighbours and t o w n , his o w n c o u n t r y . A c c o r d i n g
as these are d e a r to h i m , a n d a c c o r d i n g as they are too
i n d i v i d u a l l y distinct to be g r o u p e d in a mere class, he
gives t h e m n a m e s w h i c h enables h i m to foist t h e m u p o n
the attention o f the linguistic c o m m u n i t y at large.
T h i s b r i e f statement e n d e a v o u r s to explain w h y p r o p e r
n a m e s a d h e r e most o f all to i n d i v i d u a l things. L e t it b e
e m p h a s i z e d , however, that it is o n l y a v e r y tiny fraction
o f the i n d i v i d u a l things in the w o r l d w h i c h are e v e r
a c c o r d e d n a m e s o f their o w n . H e n c e the notion that not
m e r e l y all individual things, b u t also their m o m e n t a r i l y
p e r c e i v e d parts, are the p r e - o r d a i n e d subjects o f p r o p e r
names, seems a stupendous illusion. F o r most i n d i v i d u a l
things the proper m o d e o f reference is description, the
g e n e r a l n a t u r e o f w h i c h I h a v e a t t e m p t e d r o u g h l y to
s u m m a r i z e a b o v e (p. 44) ; a n d there is no t h i n g h o w e v e r
small or u n i m p o r t a n t that c a n n o t be r e a c h e d b y descrip-
tion. 1 B u t these generalizations b r i n g m e to the final topic
of m y inquiry.

XXII

Assuredly the most fantastic t h e o r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s that


has ever c o m e to birth is that p r o p o u n d e d b y B e r t r a n d
Russell in a set of lectures subsequently published in a
1 I n m y book on Speech and Language, p. 33, I h a v e c o m p a r e d the

method of L a n g u a g e to the g a m e of a n i m a l , vegetable, or mineral. T h i s ,


mutatis mutandis, or rather odditis addendis, is perhaps as good a w a y o f
describing description as could be briefly a t t a i n e d .
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
periodical. T h e r e it m i g h t a p p r o p r i a t e l y h a v e been left to
slumber undisturbed b u t for its h a v i n g received w i d e
publicity, t h o u g h in m u c h modified f o r m , in Prof. Steb-
bing's w e l l - k n o w n Modern Introduction to Logic, second
edition, L o n d o n , 1933, p p . 23-6. S i n c e Prof. S t e b b i n g
explicitly admits her d e p e n d e n c e on Russell, it seems
fairer, in offering criticism, to g o b a c k to the fountain-
h e a d . I start w i t h a quotation : l
' T h e only kind of word that is theoretically capable of
standing for a particular is a proper name, and the whole matter
of proper names is rather curious.
Proper Names = words for particulars.
Definition.
Ί have put that down although, so far as common language
goes, it is obviously false. It is true that if you try to think how
you are to talk about particulars, you will see that you cannot
ever talk about a particular particular except by means of a
proper name. Y o u cannot use general words except by way of
description. How are you to express in words an atomic pro-
position ? A n atomic proposition is one which does mention
actual particulars, not merely describe them but actually
name them, and you can only name them by means of
names. Y o u can see at once for yourself, therefore, that every
other part of speech except proper names is obviously quite
incapable of standing for a particular. Y e t it does seem a little
odd, if, having made a dot on the blackboard, I call it
" J o h n " . Y o u would be surprised, and yet how are you to
know otherwise what it is that I am speaking of? If I say,
" T h e dot that is on the right-hand side is w h i t e " that is a pro-
position. If I say " T h i s is white" that is quite a different pro-
position. ' 'This' ' will do very well while we are all here and can
see it, but if I wanted to talk about it tomorrow it would be

1 Betrand Russell, ' T h e Philosophy of L o g i c a l A t o m i s m ' , in The


Monist, 1918, p p . 5 2 3 - 5 .
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
convenient to have christened it and called it ' 'John". T h e r e is
no other way in which you can mention it. Y o u cannot really
mention it itself except by means of a name.
' W h a t pass for names in language, like "Socrates", " P l a t o " ,
and so forth, were originally intended to fulfil this function of
standing for particulars, and w e do accept, in ordinary daily
life, as particulars all sorts of things that really are not so. T h e
names that we commonly use, like "Socrates", are really
abbreviations for descriptions ; not only that, but what they
describe are not particulars but complicated systems of classes
or series. A name, in the narrow logical sense of a word whose
meaning is a particular, can only be applied to a particular
with which the speaker is acquainted, because you cannot
name anything you are not acquainted with. Y o u remember,
when A d a m named the beasts, they came before him one by
one, and he became acquainted with them and named them.
W e are not acquainted with Socrates, and therefore cannot
name him. W h e n we use the word "Socrates", we are really
using a description. O u r thought m a y be rendered by some
such phrase as " T h e Master of Plato", or " T h e philosopher
who drank the hemlock", or " T h e person whom logicians
assert to be mortal", but we certainly do not use the name as
a name in the proper sense of the word.
' T h a t makes it very difficult to get any instance of a name
at all in the proper strict logical sense of the word. T h e only
words one does use as names in the logical sense are words
like " t h i s " or " t h a t " . O n e can use " t h i s " as a name to stand
for a particular with which one is acquainted at the moment.
W e say " T h i s is white". If you agree that " T h i s is w h i t e " ,
meaning the " t h i s " that you see, you are using " t h i s " as a
proper name. But if you try to apprehend the proposition that
I am expressing when I say " T h i s is white", you cannot do it.
If you mean this piece of chalk as a physical object, then you
are not using a proper name. It is only when you use " t h i s "
quite strictly, to stand for an actual object of sense, that it is
really a proper name. A n d in that it has a very odd property
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
for a proper name, namely that it seldom means the same
thing two moments running and does not mean the same
thing to the speaker and to the hearer. It is an ambiguous
proper name, but it is really a proper name all the same, and
it is almost the only thing I can think of that is used properly
and logically in the sense that I was talking of for a proper
name.'

Russell's a p p r o a c h to the topic o f p r o p e r n a m e s is


philosophical, not philological, a n d h e insists w i t h almost
p a i n f u l iteration that he is speaking o f t h e m o n l y from the
logical point o f v i e w . H o w e v e r , close e x a m i n a t i o n o f the
a b o v e passage, w i t h others in the same series o f lectures,
shows h i m to be at least as m u c h interested in v e r b a l
symbolization as in the things s y m b o l i z e d , a n d his w h o l e
discourse is a b o u t w o r d s a n d names, n a m i n g a n d descrip-
tion. T h e fact is t h a t logic a n d linguistic t h e o r y hold a
large tract o f c o u n t r y in c o m m o n , a n d w i t h i n that tract
it is impossible to d e a l w i t h the o n e w i t h o u t the other. I n
all that Russell says a b o u t John, Socrates, a n d this he is,
despite his implicit disclaimer, t a l k i n g linguistic theory,
a n d m y a i m here is to show that his linguistic theory is
unsound. L e t us a d m i t there c o u l d b e no objection, if it
took our f a n c y , to e m p l o y i n g a p r o p e r n a m e in order to
indicate a p e r c e i v e d entity such as a d o t c h a l k e d o n a
b l a c k b o a r d . T h i s w a s Russell's o w n e x a m p l e o f a parti-
cular, chosen because he w a s able to demonstrate it to the
a c t u a l eyes o f his a u d i e n c e . H e w o u l d h a v e b e e n within
his rights h a d he m e r e l y stated that, for the purpose o f
his logic, he h a d decided to use p r o p e r n a m e s in no other
w a y . But w h e n he goes further a n d defines p r o p e r names
as w o r d s for particulars, he commits himself to a n evident
suggestio falsi to the effect that n o w o r d for w h a t is not a
particular is a p r o p e r n a m e , a n d that p r o p e r n a m e s that
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
are w o r d s for particulars are different f r o m all o t h e r
words, i n c l u d i n g such a p p a r e n t p r o p e r names as Socrates.
N o w this is a philological contention, a n d it w o u l d b e idle
for Russell to reply that he has not been w r i t i n g a b o u t
words at all.
W h e n Russell's statements are scrutinized in detail
they will b e f o u n d l a m e n t a b l y confused. H e thinks it
w o u l d h a v e b e e n useful to christen his dot on the b l a c k -
b o a r d John, b u t decides not to d o so o n the g r o u n d that it
w o u l d be a little odd. In v i e w o f the extreme o d d i t y o f
Russell's definition o f proper n a m e s , it seems strange that
such a consideration should h a v e deterred him. T h e n a m e
John w o u l d , he pointed out, h a v e the a d v a n t a g e o f e n a b -
ling h i m to speak of his dot t o m o r r o w . M e a n w h i l e he has
succeeded perfectly in s p e a k i n g a b o u t it to his readers
m u c h later t h a n tomorrow, a n d in the absence o f the d o t
itself their picture o f it w o u l d not h a v e been e v o k e d o n e
w h i t more clearly h a d he used a p r e a r r a n g e d n a m e like
John. T h e fact is that Russell, obsessed o n m a t h e m a t i c a l
g r o u n d s b y his desire for v e r b a l s y m b o l i z a t i o n , has failed
to realize that the function o f L a n g u a g e is p u r e l y instru-
m e n t a l , a n d that p r o v i d e d w o r d s c a n be f o u n d to m a k e a
listener think o f something to w h i c h the speaker wishes
to m a k e reference it matters not w h e t h e r a p r o p e r n a m e
is used or a description c o m p r i s i n g several words. T h e
words are mere scaffolding, to be r e m o v e d w h e n its p u r -
pose is fulfilled.
M o r e o v e r , it is rather difficult to understand w h y , if
proper n a m e s are defined as w o r d s for particulars, the
w o r d s the dot on the blackboard should not be a c c e p t e d as a
proper n a m e , since in their c o n t e x t it c a n n o t be d e n i e d
that they indicate the p a r t i c u l a r in question. B u t p e r h a p s
Russell has been careless in f o r m u l a t i n g his d e f i n i t i o n ;
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
perhaps w h a t he i n t e n d e d to say is that a p r o p e r n a m e
must be a single w o r d . H a v i n g rejected John as too o d d
for his purpose, he falls b a c k o n this, w h i c h he declares to
b e a proper n a m e in spite o f its ' a m b i g u i t y ' , a term here
taken in the sense that 'this seldom m e a n s the same t h i n g
t w o moments r u n n i n g ' . Philologists w i l l be a m a z e d to
find this p a r a d i n g as a proper n a m e , since one has only to
p l a c e John a n d this alongside one a n o t h e r to realize that
they are words o f entirely different calibre. Nevertheless,
since Russell insists that this is 'really a p r o p e r n a m e ' ,
albeit a n a m b i g u o u s one, w e must try to grasp w h y he
considers it such. T h e o n l y reasons I c a n think o f are,
firstly because it is a single w o r d , a n d secondly because it
indicates w i t h some degree o f sureness a p a r t i c u l a r im-
m e d i a t e l y presented, especially if a c c o m p a n i e d b y a de-
monstrative gesture. O n the other h a n d , since this, w h e n
uttered tomorrow a n d in the absence o f the particular in
question, will fail to indicate it, clearly Russell has n o w
a b a n d o n e d his quest for a proper n a m e w h i c h will per-
f o r m that useful function. T h e p r o p e r n a m e he is left w i t h
in this appears a pretty useless w o r d , for it will only w o r k
w h e n the particular is a c t u a l l y present, a n d consequently
resembles a shilling in the pocket that m a y only be spent
o n a cake one is a l r e a d y eating.
T h e w h o l e tenor o f Russell's r e m a r k s shows that he
regards description a n d n a m i n g as directly antithetical,
a n d that he w o u l d not consider a w o r d really a proper
n a m e if it merely stated the kind to w h i c h a n entity be-
longs or a relationship in w h i c h it stands. B u t the latter
is precisely w h a t this does, a n d I a m a t a loss, therefore,
to understand h o w Russell c a n regard it as a proper
n a m e . I f this be not descriptive, h o w comes it that, as
Russell admits, this indicates different objects on different
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
occasions o f its use ? For that to b e possible, s u r e l y —
t h o u g h the expression is u n u s u a l — t h e r e must be a 'this-
ness' c o m m o n to all the objects designated b y this such as
to v i n d i c a t e each separate successful application. W h a t
that 'thisness' is a n y schoolboy c o u l d explain. 'Thisness'
is relative nearness to the speaker, j u s t as 'thatness', its
contrary, is relative remoteness f r o m h i m . It is not
m a i n t a i n e d that this is quite o n the same footing as a n
o r d i n a r y c o m m o n noun. A m o n g other differences, the
extreme generality o f this is responsible for the i n f r e q u e n c y
o f its use as a g r a m m a t i c a l predicate. O n the w h o l e , h o w -
ever, its f u n c t i o n i n g is similar to that o f a substantive or
adjective. I n e m p l o y i n g this as g r a m m a t i c a l subject the
speaker implicitly says to the listener ' L o o k o u t for some-
t h i n g near m e ' , j u s t as the R o m a n using urbs in the s a m e
syntactical position implicitly said ' L o o k out for some
place that is a city.' T h u s the descriptive intention o f this
is v e r y a p p a r e n t . Professor S t e b b i n g , w h o has taken o v e r
a n d systematized most of Russell's views o n p r o p e r
names, states that this is e q u i v a l e n t to a d e m o n s t r a t i v e
gesture. 1 This a n d a demonstrative gesture are not
e q u i v a l e n t b u t c o m p l e m e n t a r y . S u c h is the vagueness o f
both that in reference to things physically present t h e y
are usually e m p l o y e d together, t w o clues b e i n g better
than one. T h e demonstrative gesture has a m e a n i n g
different f r o m this, since it indicates direction. T h e gesture
says ' L o o k out for something in the direction o f m y point-
ing finger or m y n o d d e d h e a d . ' T h e gesture gives the line,
this the relative distance a l o n g it.

Russell is right, o f course, in r e g a r d i n g n a m i n g a n d


description as antithetical, b u t his p e c u l i a r v i e w o f p r o p e r
names beguiles him into d r a w i n g strange conclusions
1 O p . cit., p. 25.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
f r o m the antithesis. H e refuses (doubtless w i t h g o o d
reason) to consider persons as particulars, a n d accord-
ingly will not allow that words for persons are proper
names. I f Russell prefers to restrict his o w n use o f proper
names to particulars that is his concern, t h o u g h it is rather
a burlesque situation that, w h e n he comes to look for
p r o p e r names o f the kind he requires, he finds none a n d
has to fall b a c k u p o n a w o r d that obviously is not a proper
n a m e . Russell's decision not to r e g a r d Socrates as a proper
n a m e a p p a r e n t l y leaves h i m w i t h a b a d conscience, for he
feels impelled to tell us w h a t kind o f a w o r d Socrates really
is. N a t u r a l l y he j u m p s to the conclusion that it must be a
description, a n d he tells us that our t h o u g h t m a y b e
rendered b y some such phrase as ' T h e M a s t e r o f P l a t o ' ,
or ' T h e philosopher w h o d r a n k the h e m l o c k ' , or ' T h e
person w h o m logicians assert to be m o r t a l ' . N o t h i n g o f
the kind ! A l l t h a t the w o r d Socrates tells us w h e n it is pro-
n o u n c e d is that reference is b e i n g m a d e to a certain
entity called Socrates. T o a p p l y the t e r m 'description' to a
w o r d w h i c h m a y i n d e e d a w a k e n the m e m o r y o f sundry
bits o f information, b u t w h i c h does not itself point to a n y
one o f them, is a strange abuse o f terms. T h e w o r d Socrates
is a mere sound-label, a n d as such is a n alternative to a n y
description o f Socrates complete e n o u g h to identify h i m ,
b u t is not a description itself. W h i l s t discussing the n a m e
Socrates, I c a n n o t refrain f r o m astonishment that Russell
should h a v e chosen as his e x a m p l e o f w h a t is not a proper
n a m e the v e r y w o r d taken b y Dionysius T h r a x to illus-
trate his definition. It is as t h o u g h a zoologist were to
start his treatise b y s a y i n g that he was g o i n g to exclude
horses from his p r o g r a m m e , since horses were really plants.
A specialist no d o u b t has the right to a d a p t the m e a n i n g
o f a technical term to his special purpose if he does not
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
think fit to coin a n e w one o f his o w n , a n d his justification
is the greater if he believes the c u s t o m a r y use to c o n c e a l
a fallacy. B u t really it is g o i n g b e y o n d the m a r k to p l a y
skittles w i t h a time-honoured t e r m w h i c h in its o r d i n a r y
acceptation has done g o o d service for a couple o f thou-
sand years. T h a t is w h a t Russell has done, a n d his treat-
m e n t o f p r o p e r names c o m p a r e s v e r y d i s a d v a n t a g e o u s l y
w i t h the sober a n d closely reasoned a c c o u n t g i v e n b y
Mill.
S o u n f a m i l i a r to m e is the philosophic p l a n e u p o n
w h i c h B e r t r a n d Russell m o v e s that I a m a little nervous
a b o u t d o g m a t i z i n g u p o n the basis o f his t h o u g h t . T h e
impression I h a v e , however, is that he desires to d e n y the
reality o f e v e r y t h i n g w i t h w h i c h o n e is not ' a c q u a i n t e d ' ,
a c q u a i n t a n c e a p p a r e n t l y b e i n g t a k e n as identical w i t h
direct sense-perception. Russell asserts that o n e c a n n o t
n a m e a n y t h i n g w i t h w h i c h o n e is not a c q u a i n t e d ; the
animals c a m e before A d a m , a n d so he w a s able to n a m e
t h e m . I n a n o t h e r passage 1 he asserts that Romulus is not
a n a m e b u t a sort o f t r u n c a t e d description 'because a
n a m e has got to n a m e something or it is not a n a m e , a n d
if there is no such person as Romulus there c a n n o t be a
n a m e for that person w h o is not there'. H e r e , unless
Russell is simply repeating himself, R o m u l u s is i n v o k e d ,
not as a second e x a m p l e o f the s a m e type as Socrates, b u t
as a p u r e l y fictional character. It is difficult to g r a p p l e
w i t h a theory w h i c h in one b r e a t h maintains that y o u
c a n n o t n a m e w h a t is fictional, b u t that y o u c a n describe
it. O r c a n descriptions exist w i t h o u t describing a n y t h i n g ?
T h e truth is that, w h e t h e r y o u n a m e or w h e t h e r y o u
describe, w h a t is n a m e d or described has to be present to
the m i n d . T h a t is all that is n e e d e d for a n a m e or a
1 O p . cit., 1919, p. 208.
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
description to be possible, a n d for L a n g u a g e it is a m a t t e r
o f complete indifference w h e t h e r the t h i n g n a m e d or
described has or o n c e h a d external existence, or rather,
to meet Russell o n his o w n g r o u n d , w h e t h e r or not it
has ever 'come before' its n a m e r or describer. B u t w h y
waste words ? T o refute Russell's v i e w that y o u c a n n o t
n a m e a person w h o is not there, it is necessary only to
quote Romulus as e v i d e n c e that y o u c a n . A n d the thou-
sands o f names o f fictional or m y t h o l o g i c a l characters
w h i c h w e m a y r e m e m b e r will not i m p r o v e u p o n that
answer.

XXIII

It is w i t h some d i s m a y that I look b a c k u p o n the length


o f this essay, a n d w o n d e r w h a t verdict will be passed u p o n
it b y those critics w h o censured for its prolixity m y really
v e r y concise book on Speech and Language. I will conclude
by stating in few w o r d s the m a i n points in w h i c h I believe
m y theory to differ f r o m that o f M i l l a n d the logicians
w h o with minor modifications h a v e c o n c u r r e d in his
v i e w . In the first p l a c e , I hold that the q u a l i t y o f a p r o p e r
n a m e is nothing absolute, b u t that the term merely
segregates and puts in a class b y themselves those words
in w h i c h the p o w e r o f distinctive word-sounds to identify
distinct things is exhibited in a pure or n e a r l y pure state,
without that p o w e r b e i n g assisted to a n y great degree b y
such m e a n i n g as m a y attach to the w o r d . Stated in a m o r e
general w a y , m y thesis is that the term refers to the modus
operandi o f the words included in this c a t e g o r y , a n d that
t h o u g h the ability to m a r k distinctions depends in all
words u p o n their distinctive sounds, in p r o p e r names it
depends on that alone, or nearly alone. I n the second
i8 T H E T H E O R Y OF P R O P E R " N A M E S
place, I utterly reject the v i e w that a p r o p e r n a m e is
necessarily a singular n a m e . A n d lastly, I m a i n t a i n that
the operative p o w e r o f p r o p e r n a m e s is reflected in, a n d
facilitated b y , our recognition o f t h e m as such. T h a t re-
cognition instructs us c o n c e r n i n g the w a y in w h i c h such
w o r d s are to be taken. T h i s final point is o n e in w h i c h ,
unless I a m mistaken, the p u r e l y logical v i e w o f w o r d s is
seriously at fault. A s I tried to m a k e clear in m y b o o k o n
Speech and Language, the f o r m o f w o r d s is f u n d a m e n t a l l y
a n overtone o f m e a n i n g w h i c h has evolved o u t o f l o n g
experience o f their functions a n d w h i c h has b r o u g h t
a b o u t a m o n g s t them differentiations o f kind. J u s t as a
n o u n is not merely a w o r d that denotes a thing, b u t is
one that views a thing as a thing, so too a proper n a m e is
a w o r d that is recognized as i d e n t i f y i n g its object b y v i r t u e
o f the distinctive sound exclusively.
APPENDIX

SOME O T H E R D E F I N I T I O N S

AMONG the definitions of' a Proper Name propounded by


others, there are some which at first sight appear to bear close
resemblance to my own, but which on careful examination
will be found to possess deficiencies of one kind or another. I
select for criticism the views of four writers.
1. Keynes, Formal Logic, 4th ed., London, 1928, p. 13. Ά
proper name is a name assigned as a mark to distinguish an
individual person or thing from others, without implying in
its signification the possession of any special attributes.'
Keynes himself subsequently contradicts parts of this, for he
tells us on the same page that many proper names 'are as a
matter of fact assigned to more than one individual', and he
instances John and Victoria. O n the next page (n. 2) he quotes
Dr. Venn as pointing out 'that certain proper names may be
regarded as collective, though such names are not common',
the instance given being 'the Seychelles'. [Note the misuse of
the word 'collective', which ought never to be applied to a
plural.] O n p. 42, n. 3, he admits that a proper name may
have suggestive force, e.g. may imply human being and male.
O n p. 44 he tells us that a particular name 'may have been
chosen in the first instance for a special reason', e.g. Smith ;
he does not seem, however, to deny that Smith is a proper
name even when the bearer is still plying his trade as a smith.
Lastly, it is not strictly accurate to say that a name is assigned
as a mark to 'distinguish' ; primarily it only identifies, distinc-
tion being merely the consequence of the identification.
2. Bertelsen, Fxllesnavne og Egennavne, Copenhagen, 1911,
p. 14, gives a definition that may be translated as follows : Ά
proper name denominates its object without indicating cir-
cumstances that are characteristic of that individual or those
APPENDIX 69
individuals of whom the name is used.' This definition
seems contradicted by le Mont Blanc, and is expressed so
negatively that one obtains no inkling how a proper name
accomplishes its aim. Nor is it made clear that a proper name
is a fact of Language, possessing its quality apart from any
context or any special syntactical position. A merit of
Bertelsen's brochure is, however, that he stresses the affective
interest which plays so large a part in the creation of proper
names.
3. Funke, on p. 79 of the article quoted above, p. 38, n. 1.
'Eigennamen sind Individualnamen, die eine Individualvor-
stellung (sei es eines einzelnen Gegenstandes oder eines indi-
viduellen Kollektivs) bedeuten und zu deren Bedeutung
weiter die Vorstellung des " so und so Genanntseins" gehört ;
sie nennen Individuen oder individuelle Kollectiva, die exis-
tieren oder als existierend gedacht werden (wurden).' T h e
virtue of the inclusion of the 'so und so Genanntsein' has been
admitted above, p. 38, n. 1, but otherwise the definition teems
with obscurities and repetitions. I have pointed out that very
often a proper name conveys nothing but existence of an
entity possesssing the name ; what becomes of Funke's Ί η -
dividualvorstellung' in such a case? T h e term 'individuelle
Kollektiva' is hopelessly obscure without further explanation ;
if it excludes plurals like Seychelles this is a serious omission,
and if it includes them the term 'Kollektiv' is wrongly used.
Another regrettable lacuna is the lack of any clear indication
how much meaning a proper name may or has to possess.
4. Bröndal, Ordklasserne, Copenhagen, 1928, pp. 41-49,
criticizes previous theories in detail, but not always rightly.
He regards the theories of Mill and Bertelsen with some
favour, but finds their standpoints too psychological and too
regardless of the language-system as a whole. In my view, on
the contrary, the difference between proper names and sub-
stantives that are not proper names is almost purely psycho-
logical, and depends on the importance attached to the sound
of the former by the linguistic community generally. Bröndal's
7o APPENDIX
own constructive explanation (pp. 81-85) extremely diffi-
cult to criticize, largely because it forms part of an abstractly
conceived system of parts of speech at variance with all
traditional views. H e excludes from the category of proper
names all compounds, all words that still have significance
as names of occupations, &c. (e.g. Smith), and even a name
like Venus, besides separating the category from that of nouns
('Nominer', p. 81). O n e point which definitely creates a
chasm between Bröndal's linguistic theory and my own is that
he makes his system of word-classes entirely dependent upon
the logical quality of the entities (in the widest sense) desig-
nated, whereas I, whilst believing that the word-classes
depend to a considerable extent upon the nature of those
entities, attach great importance to the way in which human
beings, largely for facility of linguistic communication, look
upon the said entities, e.g. a substantive is a word referring to
a thing viewed as a thing. Thus Bröndal's statement that
proper names 'obviously correspond to the "eternal objects"
of Whitehead's philosophy' seems to me inacceptable. He
refrains from any formal definition.
R E T R O S P E C T 1953

THE principal matter here to be discussed is whether, in


my definition and elsewhere (pp. 38 foil.), I have done
right in laying so much emphasis on the sound of proper
names. In a very friendly and scrupulously fair criticism
S. U l l m a n n wrote
The second objection is more serious : by emphasizing the
relative prominence of distinctive sound in our recognition of
proper names, Sir Alan has introduced a psychological
element, a subjective and variable factor difficult to verify.
He is of course quite right in claiming that 'unless our aware-
ness of the various types and functions of words were an objec-
tive reality, the task of the grammarian would be nugatory
and his distinctions wholly artificial' (p. 41 ; cf. also pp.
66 f.) ; z but it may be doubted whether linguists and logi-
cians, even those free from any anti-mentalistic bias, will be
satisfied with this criterion.

T h e operative words here are 'in our recognition of


proper names' and I have to admit that my formal defi-
nition deliberately used the expression 'recognized3 as in-
dicating or tending to indicate the object or objects to
which it refers by virtue of its distinctive sound alone . . .'.
Previously U l l m a n n had accepted my answer to the pos-
sible objection that the entire mechanism of language is
based on distinctive sound-features by means of which we
differentiate between words, that answer being that 'it
makes a vast amount of difference whether the distinctive
1 Archivum Linguisticum, iv. i (1952), 67.
2 T h e page-numbers have here been altered to agree with the p a g i n a -
tion of the present edition.
3 M y italics.
R E T R O S P E C T 1953 73
sound is a self-sufficient means o f identification, or
w h e t h e r it has to b e assisted, as in g e n e r a l names, by con-
sideration o f the m e a n i n g ' . H o w e v e r , m y acute critic has
in fact p o u n c e d u p o n a really serious objection, a n d it
will emerge that I a m u n a b l e to do otherwise t h a n meet
it w i t h a considerable measure o f a g r e e m e n t .
F r o m the w a y in w h i c h U l l m a n n has v o i c e d his objec-
tion it is clear that he w a s thinking j u s t as little as myself
a b o u t w h a t h a p p e n s in the conversational traffic o f daily
life. For there the w o r d s are mere m a c h i n e r y , a n d as little
present to the minds o f the persons c o n c e r n e d as are the
goings on of the l o c o m o t i v e to the m i n d o f a traveller b y
train. It is only w h e n there is a hitch in comprehension,
w h e n a w o r d is b a d l y p r o n o u n c e d , w h e n a n i n a p p r o -
priate w o r d is used, or in such similar cases, that the
spoken w o r d springs into consciousness, 1 a n d even then,
I f a n c y , it is only seldom that the a c t u a l sound comes to
m i n d . O f t e n the listener will be a w a r e m e r e l y that some-
t h i n g has gone w r o n g . A l l this is as true o f p r o p e r names
as o f other words, e x c e p t that w i t h p r o p e r names there
are certain special occasions like a christening or a f o r m a l
introduction w h e n the a c t u a l sound assumes a n impor-
t a n c e not b r o u g h t into the foreground o f attention at
other times.
U l l m a n n ' s criticism a n d m y o w n definition h a v e been
alike concerned r a t h e r w i t h the status o f proper names
as facts o f L a n g u a g e , i.e. w i t h their p e r m a n e n t a n d con-
stitutional nature. A n d here U l l m a n n has laid his finger
u p o n a real flaw in m y formulation. I t is true to say that
the linguistic c o m m u n i t y has an instinctive awareness o f
the identificatory purpose o f proper names, 2 a n d it is also
1 Speech and Language, § 15, end.
2 See a b o v e , § x n , pp. 39 foil.
R E T R O S P E C T 1953 73
true that here the distinctive sound provides the exclusive
m e c h a n i s m . B u t it was false to declare, as m y definition
did, that the linguistic c o m m u n i t y recognized the latter
fact, this b e i n g the more e v i d e n t since I myself c o m -
plained (p. 38, n. I ; p. 40) that e v e n logicians a n d g r a m -
marians h a d all too often o v e r l o o k e d the i m p o r t a n c e o f
the sound-aspect. T h a n k s to U l i m a n n I n o w realize that
m y f o r m u l a t i o n has illicitly fused together t w o proposi-
tions e a c h true in itself, b u t false w h e n thus c o m b i n e d .
L o a t h as I naturally a m to t a m p e r w i t h m y f o r m e r care-
fully f r a m e d definition, this a p p e a r s to be necessary, a n d
I n o w propose the following ievision :

A proper name is a word or group of words which is recog-


nized as having identification as its specific purpose, and
which achieves, or tends to achieve, that purpose by means
of its distinctive sound alone, without regard to any meaning
possessed by that sound from the start, or acquired by it
through association with the object or objects thereby iden-
tified.

It is relatively easy to pick holes in a n y definition, a n d


I d o not p r e t e n d that the a b o v e is a n exception to a w e l l -
n i g h universal rule. Nevertheless I believe that m y fresh
effort a p p r o x i m a t e s to the truth as nearly as is h u m a n l y
possible. I will, however, recall t w o possible lines o f
attack. I n speaking o f p r o p e r n a m e s as h a v i n g so clearly
m a r k e d a n identificatory purpose, I ignore their distin-
guishing p o w e r . But this, as w a s pointed o u t p . 34, n . . i ,
is o n l y secondary and consequential. S e c o n d l y , I - m a y
find myself reproached for h a v i n g insisted so one-sidedly
o n the sound-aspect a n d for h a v i n g ignored the w r i t t e n
a p p e a r a n c e altogether. It w o u l d , indeed, h a v e b e e n m o r e
a c c u r a t e to substitute 'its physical (or " s e n s o r y " ) q u a l i t y '
R E T R O S P E C T 1953 73
for 'its distinctive s o u n d ' , b u t such a substitution w o u l d
h a v e tended rather to obscure t h a n to clarify, a n d I
consider this point to h a v e been sufficiently d e a l t w i t h o n
m y p. 40.
M o r e fruitful, t h o u g h o f e q u a l l y little intrinsic weight,
is the possible objection that m y definition is artificial a n d
unreal since it analyses p r o p e r n a m e s only in isolation a n d
ignores the living situations in w h i c h they are a c t u a l l y
encountered. B u t this evokes the obvious retort that m y
procedure is no less legitimate than that o f the entomo-
logist w h o dissects a d e a d beetle instead o f contenting
himself w i t h w h a t e v e r c a n be learnt a b o u t it whilst it
still lives to ' w i n g its d r o n i n g flight'. Nevertheless, this
possible objection indicates the desirability o f studying
p r o p e r names, not m e r e l y as a p a r t i c u l a r c a t e g o r y o f
L a n g u a g e , b u t also f r o m the point o f v i e w o f their utility
in a c t u a l Speech. H e r e at the end o f m y R e t r o s p e c t o n l y
a few rather c o m m o n p l a c e observations c a n b e set d o w n .
I n the first place, it is obvious that the user o f a proper
n a m e must a l w a y s k n o w more a b o u t the bearer o f it than
is c o n v e y e d b y the n a m e itself. I n m a k i n g a n introduction
a host m a y p e r h a p s h a v e only little m o r e k n o w l e d g e o f
the person he is i n t r o d u c i n g t h a n that such a n d such is
his n a m e ; b u t a l w a y s there is at least some k n o w l e d g e .
O n m a n y occasions the k n o w l e d g e is g r e a t a n d intimate ;
for e x a m p l e , the r a i l w a y porter w h o salutes a n i n - c o m i n g
train w i t h the cry o f Basingstoke! will p r o b a b l y be a native
o f that t o w n a n d t h o r o u g h l y familiar w i t h it in all its
aspects. T h e same disparity o f k n o w l e d g e is f o u n d in the
listeners. O n e o f the passengers m a y be a foreigner w h o
has never heard o f the p l a c e before, a n d w h o n o w in the
darkness knows o n l y that he has arrived there. A n o t h e r
passenger m a y b e c o m i n g h o m e a n d be as well a c q u a i n t e d
R E T R O S P E C T 1953 73
w i t h the t o w n as is the porter himself. A supreme v i r t u e
o f p r o p e r n a m e s is that they cater for all degrees o f k n o w -
ledge. A c t u a l l y they c o n v e y n o n e ; the sole k n o w l e d g e
that they c a n c o n f e r — a n d it is m o r e often t h a n n o t al-
r e a d y k n o w n — i s that something in the situation o r re-
v e a l e d b y the v e r b a l context bears that n a m e . A s I h a v e
expressed it a b o v e , p. 32, ' o r d i n a r y words, a m o n g w h i c h
g e n e r a l n a m e s p l a y a p r o m i n e n t p a r t , directly c o n v e y
i n f o r m a t i o n ; proper n a m e s m e r e l y p r o v i d e the k e y to
information'.
B u t n o w observe that the speaker n o r m a l l y h a s a
quite definite notion o f the a m o u n t o f k n o w l e d g e w h i c h
he wishes his proper n a m e s to c o m m u n i c a t e to the
listener, a n d his skill in speech, c o n s u m m a t e even in the
clumsiest o f yokels, has gifted h i m w i t h all kinds o f re-
sources for attaining his desire. H i s c o m m u n i c a t i v e p u r -
pose is at its smallest w h e n , for e x a m p l e , h e says to a
friend : Mrs. Simpson told me the other day.... T h e personal-
ity o f M r s . Simpson is possibly o f no interest either to the
speaker or to the listener, a n d the n a m e m a y h a v e b e e n
m e n t i o n e d o n l y to forestall such a n irrelevant question as
Who told you that? O n the other h a n d , t h r o u g h the tone o f
voice, the choice o f a p p r o p r i a t e a c c o m p a n y i n g w o r d s ,
a n d the speaker's k n o w l e d g e o f w h a t the listener k n o w s ,
a p r o p e r n a m e m a y b e c o m e c h a r g e d w i t h intense signi-
ficance, as w h e n an irate b r o t h e r s a y s : Isn't that just like
Tom? T h e s e few examples sufh.ce to show h o w intensely
useful p r o p e r names are, in spite o f the f a c t that b y their
v e r y n a t u r e all they c a n a c t u a l l y p e r f o r m is to p o i n t to a n
entity that bears the n a m e . L a s t l y note that, in t h e o r y
at least, descriptive words, t h o u g h possibly o n l y a n
a b u n d a n c e o f them, c a n a l w a y s c o n v e y e x a c t l y the s a m e
i n f o r m a t i o n as a proper n a m e , e x c e p t o f course the
R E T R O S P E C T 1 9 5 3 73
information that the entity spoken o f possesses that n a m e .
I n practice, h o w e v e r , this alternative m a y not w o r k ,
since, if the r e q u i r e d v e r b a l description is long, the listener
m a y end b y ceasing to tolerate the speaker's prolixity,
a n d m a y indeed cease to listen. T h i s possibility brings to
light w h a t is p e r h a p s the v e r y greatest v i r t u e o f p r o p e r
n a m e s : they are the most e c o n o m i c a l o f all words, inas-
m u c h as they m a k e o n l y a v e r y small d e m a n d u p o n the
eloquence o f the speaker, a n d a n e q u a l l y small d e m a n d
u p o n the attention o f the listener.
INDEX OF AUTHORS QUOTED
OR CRITICIZED

Bertelsen, H . , 68-69. M i l l , J . S., v i ; 1 - 3 ; 11; 12, n. 1;


B r ö n d a l , V . , 2, n . 3; 10, n. 1 ; 52, 22, n. 1 ; 2 5 - 2 8 ; 3 1 ; 38-39.
n . I ; 69. N o r e e n , A . , 2.

Brunot, F . , 10, n. I. R a n k e , H . , 8.
Russell, Bertrand (Earl), v i ; 36,
Dionysius T h r a x , v i ; 4 - 6 ; 1 1 ; 64. n . I ; 57 ff.
Dornseiff, F., 7, n. 2.
S c h o e m a n n , G . F . , 4, n. 1.
F u n k e , O . , 38, n . 1; 69.
G a r d i n e r , A . H . , 6, n. 1; 29, n. 1; Sisam, K . , 54, n. 1.
5 5 ; 57, n. 1 ; 66-67.
Jespersen, O . , 31. S t e b b i n g , S., 58, 63.

J o s e p h , H . W . B., 7, n. 1. Ullmann, S., 71-73.


K e y n e s , J . N . , 68.
V e n d r y e s , J., 5 1 , n. I.
M a r o u z e a u , J . , 23, n. 2.
M a r t y , A . , 38, n. 1. V e n n , J . , 68.

M a w e r , A . , 8. W a c k e r n a g e l , J . , 4, n. 1.
W e e k l e y , E . , 8, 49.

W y l d , H . C . , 29, n. 1.
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