54 The disciple Tsze-lu said, “The duke of Wei [who had usurped the title of his father] has been waiting for you to assist in administering the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”
The Master replied, “What is necessary is to call things by their right names.”
“So, indeed!” said Tsze-lu [who had assisted the duke in administration for many years]. “You are wide of the mark. Why must the names of things be corrected?”
Confucius responded, “How uncultivated you are, Yu. A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
“When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and harmony will not flourish. When proprieties and harmony do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
“Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires, is that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.” Selection and adaptation by Rex Pay Analects of Confucius