Consider the sentence "I like Heroin", meaning that you enjoy the famous song by the Velvet Underground. Is the expression in italics used or mentioned? To me it seems that it's a use, but a weird one.

Putting titles to things is kind of an artificial way of naming them, and yet they are not like regular names because titles of course refer to things outside the piece of art that they name.

What about "Heroin is a weird title for a song"? The sentence states nothing about the word "heroin": if it did we wouldn't need the capital letter.


This is an extract from The Philosophy of Language by A.P. Martinich, page 3

For the most part, words are used in such a way that the word itself is not the primary object of interest [...] philosophers sometimes use single quotation marks to indicate that a word or phrase is being mentioned [...] 'Cicero' is a word with six letters.

Cicero is a word with six letters, might also work. 'Cicero' or Cicero is then used to mention the word itself.

Cicero is a word with six letters, implies that Cicero the person and not the word 'Cicero' is a word of six letters. So one can say that a word is mentioned if it talks about itself. And is not mentioned if it does not talk about itself. But a word is always used. The sentence "I like Heroin " do not talk about the word 'Heroin', but about the song by the Velvet Underground. Because you told us you used it to talk about the Velvet Underground.

I like Cicero and I like 'Cicero' mean different things, by the convention already stated. "I like Cicero" would imply, that I like the person Cicero, and "I like 'Cicero'" would imply I like the word 'Cicero'.

  • But certainly if I wanted to say that I like a book called "Cicero" I would have to use the word in another way. The word would not indicate the person nor the word itself, but the book named after the person. Probably my question wasn't very clear, but I was referring in particular to titles of songs, novel etc. – user10550 Oct 26 '14 at 13:04
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    It would be hard to know what is implied with: I like X. A standard reading (without any background information) would be that "I like X" is about the X itself, and not about what it was intended to refer to. That is, if using italics is a way of mentioning like that of single quotation marks. The use of italic may also be used as a way to put emphasis on what is of importance in a sentence. – WaWaWa Oct 26 '14 at 13:50

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