§38. But what, for example, is the word "this" the name of in language-game (8) or the word "that" in the ostensive definition "that is called...."?—If you do not want to produce confusion you will do best not to call these words names at all.—Yet, strange to say, the word "this" has been called the only genuine name; so that anything else we call a name was one only in an inexact, approximate sense.[1]
This queer conception springs from a tendency to sublime the logic of our language—as one might put it [§89]. The proper answer to it is: we call very different things "names"; the word "name" is used to characterize many different kinds of use of a word, related to one another in many different ways;—but the kind of use that "this" has is not among them (4).
It is quite true that, in giving an ostensive definition for instance, we often point to the object named and say the name. And similarly, in giving an ostensive definition for instance, we say the word "this" while pointing to a thing. And also the word "this" and a name often occupy the same position in a sentence. But it is precisely characteristic of a name (4) that it is defined by means of the demonstrative expression "That is N" (or "That is called 'N'"). But do we also give the definitions: "That is called 'this'", or "This is called 'this'"?
This is connected with the conception of naming as, so to speak, an occult process. Naming appears as a queer connexion of a word with an object.[2] —And you really get such a queer connexion when the philosopher tries to bring out the relation between name and thing by staring at an object in front of him and repeating a name or even the word "this" innumerable times. For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday. [3] And here we may indeed fancy naming to be some remarkable act of mind, as it were a baptism of an object. And we can also say the word "this" to the object, as it were address the object as "this"—a queer use of this word, which doubtless only occurs in doing philosophy.


  1. Russell's theory. He continues his discussion of it in the next section. Roughly, 'Caesar' does not purely name this?, because if I use the word 'Caesar' in a sentence, I mean 'The person who did X, did Y, said this, was there...' and so on. This adds up to far more than just naming, as in labelling ("Baptism"). So real naming is a pure process, exemplified, perhaps, by attaching, somehow, the label (token, sound) 'this' to '?'. No more detail of description should be added, because describing has gone beyond pure naming.
  2. The "occult process" is one that either a single person (with 'bububu', or with 'S') or a community supposedly does when they assign a meaning to a word. By some kind of ritual, of focussing of attention or whatever, an invisible cord, an abstract dotted line, is created which runs from word to thing, producing "a queer connection".
  3. A famous sentence! The ordinary person, in the OFoL, has perfectly good working uses of 'meaning' and 'name'. They are a bit varied, but, with help from context, they do a good job. The philosopher is the holiday-maker, who takes these good, working, words, extracts them from their working life, and places them instead in a philosophical holiday context, for which they were not designed. As a result, they no longer work properly. All kinds of inconsequential, insubstantial, puzzles - pseudo-problems - appear. She sits on the beach, staring at a pebble, muttering to herself over and over again: "Pebble". And now, instead of the philosopher recognising what she has done, returning from holiday, noticing the puzzles disappear, realising she has been suffering from some kind of holiday illness, and getting back to work, she stays on holiday, thinks that the puzzles are interesting, real, problems, and sets about trying to solve them.
  4. He takes his eye of the ball here. Considering that he is supposed to be disciplining himself to work without precise definitions, he should not be offering ones here. It is a rare moment of weakness.