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[431a] Very well; can I not say to him, “This is your name,” and then bring before his sense of hearing perhaps the imitation of himself, saying that it is a man, or perhaps the imitation of the female of the human species, saying that it is a woman? Do you not believe that this is possible and sometimes happens?

Cratylus
I am willing to concede it, Socrates, and grant that you are right.

Socrates
That is a good thing for you to do, my friend, if I am right; for now we need no longer argue about the matter. [431b] If, then, some such assignment of names takes place, we will call one kind speaking truth, and the other speaking falsehood. But if this is accepted, and if it is possible to assign names incorrectly and to give to objects not the names that befit them, but sometimes those that are unfitting, it would be possible to treat verbs in the same way. And if verbs and nouns can be assigned in this way, the same must be true of sentences; for sentences are, I conceive, a combination of verbs and nouns. [431c] What do you say to that, Cratylus?

Cratylus
I agree; I think you are right.

Socrates
If, then, we compare the earliest words to sketches, it is possible in them, as in pictures, to reproduce all the colors and shapes, or not all; some may be wanting, and some may be added, and they may be too many or too large. Is not that true?

Cratylus
Yes, it is.

Socrates
Then he who reproduces all, produces good sketches and pictures, and he who adds or takes away produces also sketches and pictures, but bad ones? [431d]

Cratylus
Yes.

Socrates
And how about him who imitates the nature of things by means of letters and syllables? By the same principle, if he gives all that is appropriate, the image—that is to say, the name—will be good, and if he sometimes omits a little, it will be an image, but not a good one; and therefore some names are well and others badly made. Is that not true?

Cratylus
Perhaps. [431e]

Socrates
Perhaps, then, one artisan of names will be good, and another bad?

Cratylus
Yes.

Socrates
The name of such an artisan was lawgiver?

Cratylus
Yes.

Socrates
Perhaps, then, by Zeus, as is the case in the other arts, one lawgiver may be good and another bad, if we accept our previous conclusions.

Cratylus
That is true. But you see, Socrates, when by the science of grammar we assign these letters—alpha, beta, and the rest—to names,


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