Ownership of Names (was Re: Public identifiers and topic maps)

John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Tue Sep 29 17:27:57 BST 1998

W. Eliot Kimber wrote:

> Again, I don't agree. How is "-//John Cowan//NONSGML KJV John 3:14//EN" any
> different from "-//Some Name//NONSGML 12345ABCD//EN" if they both happen to
> be mapped to the Bible verse John 3:14?  They're just arbitrary names.

True in principle, not true in fact.  The man who uses the word
"glory" in "There's glory for you!" to mean "There's a nice knock-down
[i.e. compelling] argument for you!" is likely to be called, or even
to *be*, a Humpty Dumpty.

Names have *content*, contrary to theory.  To use an example I have used
elsewhere, you may not know which dog the name "Fido" refers to, but you
know (if you understand English onomastics at all) that it refers to some
dog.  Likewise, "Jane" refers to some female human.

> But Dewey doesn't own the books, just the cataloging system for them.
> So why should you be denied the same opportunity to define a classification
> scheme as Dewey?

I shouldn't.  But often I don't *want* to use idiosyncratic names
for things, as if I were speaking Chinese (in Chinese: "as if my
words were a Buddha, twelve feet high, that cannot be understood").
What shall we do in order to specify the names that no one controls?

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan at ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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