Peter Schwenger in Words and the Murder of the Thing [1]:

“In the satirical hodgepodge that is book three of Gulliver’s Travels, the prize exhibit is undoubtedly the Academy of Lagado. Among its improbable schemes is one designed to avoid the “Diminution of Our Lungs by Corrosion”; as well, this scheme would achieve communicative precision and provide an infallible esperanto. It consists simply in abolishing all words and replacing them with their referents:

‘Since Words are only Names for Things, it would be more convenient for all Men to carry about them, such Things as were necessary to express the particular Business they are to discourse on […] which hath only this Inconvenience attending to it; that if a Man’s Business be very great, and of various Kinds, he must be obliged in Proportion to carry a greater Bundle of Things upon his Back, unless he can afford one or two strong Servants to attend him.'[2]

Here Swift is satirizing the notion of a perfect correspondence between words and the physical things they denominate. The ludicrousness of the unwieldy ‘conversations’ he goes on to describe underscores the otherness of things in relation to language: words and things seem fated to an absolute indifference.”

[1] Peter Schwenger, Words and the Murder of the Thing, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 1, Things (Autumn, 2001) pp.99-113

[2] Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, vol. 11 of The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis (oxford, 1941), p. 169.

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