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Humpty maintains that he can "make a word mean just what I choose it to mean" — and he's right. All I need do to make "glory" mean "a nice knock-down argument" is to say or write, "In all that follows, let 'glory' mean 'a nice knock-down argument.'" As you listen or read, you'll make the substitution. It's this sort of move that makes encoding possible, from secret messages to software.

Image AddedThe move is itself made possible by the arbitrary relationship between words and what they signify. Anything can mean anything, as long as we both follow the same rules. And unlike the rules for trials (see the King's "Rule Number Forty-two" in Alice's Wonderland trial), rules about meaning can be invented on the fly. It doesn't matter if I "made it up just now." The substitution rule is itself a "regular rule" — that is, it's already there in the general rules for language. "To make a new word, give the new word and define it." Done.

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