This is just here so that if, in the future, I want to refer to it, I will be able to do so. It is a quotation from Lichtenberg.
Much is written nowadays about nomenclature and correct designation, and that is quite right; it must all be worked upon and the best results obtained. Only I believe we expect too much of it and are too anxious to bestow upon things names that are an expression of their nature. The immeasurable advantage which language offers to thinking consists, it seems to me, in its constituting signs for things rather than definitions of them. I believe, indeed, that it is precisely when language is employed as definition that its usefulness is in part annulled. To determine what things are is the task of philosophy. The word should be, not a definition, but merely a sign for the definition that is always the changeable product of the collective labor of researchers; and it will always remain so with regard to such countless objects of our thinking that the thinker will grow accustomed no longer to regarding the sign as a definition and will in the end unconsciously transfer this lack of signification also to those signs that truly are definitions. And this too is, it seems to me, quite right. For, since the signs for concepts cannot be definitions of them, it is almost better to forbid any of them at all to be a definition than for the sake of a few signs that really are definitions to procure a false reputation for all those others which are not. This would create a primacy of language over meaning that would rob us of all the advantages granted us by the signs. But this need not worry us: left to itself, reason will always take words for what they are. Such a defining word accomplishes incredibly little. For a word cannot contain everything, and I therefore still have to get to know the thing itself separately. The best word is one that everybody understands immediately. We must therefore be careful about discarding words that are universally understood, and we should never discard them on the ground that they give a false conception of the thing! For in the first place it is not true that it gives me a false conception, since I of course know and presuppose that the word serves simply to distinguish the thing, and in the second I have no wish to get to know the nature of the thing from the word. Who has ever thought of lime at the montion of calx? What harm can there be in calling comets comets, that is to say long-haird stars, and what point would there be in calling them flaming-stars or steaming-stars? (Shooting-stars likewise.) It is seldom possible to introduce much into names, so that one has in any case to know the thing first. Parabola, hyperbola, ellipse are names of a kind of which chemistry can hardly boast, for they express qualities of these lines from which all the others can be derived—though this, to be sure, is to be ascribed more to the pure nature of the science to which these considerations belong than to any especial imaginativeness on the part of the inventors of these names. But of what use is this wisdom: we employ them as we do the names circle and ring, or conchoid, which are not definitions. The dispute is indeed somewhat similar to the purist endeavors of the language-reformers and orthographers. Too much is expected of good words and feared from bad ones. It is not only the correctness of an expression that counts but also its familiarity, and the value of a word thus to a certain extent consists in the relative combination of correctness and familiarity whenever the word is used. To lay down rules for the creation of words is, to be sure, always a very good thing, for a time may come when they are needed. It really is a good thing to give things Greek names. If all the names in chemistry were Hebrew or Arabic names, such as alkali etc., one would get on better with it the less one understood the names.