§41. In §15 we introduced proper names into language (8). Now suppose that the tool with the name "N" is broken. Not knowing this, A gives B the sign "N". Has this sign meaning now or not?—What is B to do when he is given it?—We have not settled anything about this. One might ask (1): what will he do? Well, perhaps he will stand there at a loss, or show A the pieces. Here one might say (2): "N" has become meaningless; and this expression would mean that the sign "N" no longer had a use in our language-game (unless we gave it a new one). "N" might also become meaningless because, for whatever reason, the tool was given another name and the sign "N" no longer used in the language-game.—But we could also imagine a convention (3) whereby B has to shake his head in reply if A gives him the sign belonging to a tool that is broken.—In this way the command "N" might be said to be given a place in the language-game even when the tool no longer exists, and the sign "N" to have meaning even when its bearer ceases to exist.



  1. This 'might' has the sense of 'might well', or 'might instead', or 'might in continuation'.
  2. This 'might' is different from the previous one; it has the sense of 'might, amongst other possibilities'.
  3. We could, in ordinary language, equally call this a 'rule'. It is a summary of a way that some people behave.
  4. The fact that 'N' can continue in use, loosely defined, when the object it labelled has been broken or destroyed, is being used to encourage us to see what is ordinarily called 'naming' as nothing special or mysterious - a metaphysical link between the word and the thing - but just part of the various ways that language can work for us. It is "The metaphysical link between the word and the object, called 'naming', once set up, gives the word its meaning", that is being criticised as a misuse of language.
  5. 'Meaning', and 'naming', are themselves ordinary words, in ordinary use. There is no other refined philosophical use. It is foolish to seek for what meaning or naming really involve. We should just note the cluster of various ways that 'meaning' and 'naming' are used in ordinary life - unproblematically.