In Book Thirteen (§3) of the Analects, Confucius says,
When names are not correct, what is said will not sound reasonable; when what is said does not sound reasonable, affairs will not culminate in success; when affairs do not culminate in success, rites and music will not flourish; when rites and music do not flourish, punishments will not fit the crimes; when punishments do not fit the crimes, the common people will not know where to put hand and foot. Thus when the gentleman names something, the name is sure to be usable in speech, and when he says something this is sure to be practicable. (D.C. Lau's translation)
Ezra Pound provided his own translation, which I think is preferable in many respects. (I don't know whether it is more accurate, of course.)
If the terminology be not exact, if it fit not the thing, the governmental instructions will not be explicit, if the instructions aren't clear and the names don't fit, you can not conduct business properly.
If business is not properly run the rites and music will not be honoured, if the rites and music be not honoured, penalties and punishments will not achieve their intended effects, if penalties and punishments do not produce equity and justice, the people won't know where to put their feet or what to lay hold of or to whom they shd. stretch out their hands.
That is why an intelligent man cares for his terminology and gives instructions that fit. When his orders are clear and explicit they can be put into effect. (Guide to Kulchur, p. 16)
I actually prefer Lau's translation of the last part, mainly because it shortens the distance to "usage" (i.e., "usable in speech") but both translations make it clear that something as simple as correct terminology or "the rectification of names" (cheng ming) has wide reaching consequences for life more generally.
"To govern (cheng) is to correct (cheng)." (Analects, XII, 17).
What intrigues me here is the central place that language is given in much broader business. Pound made the idea his own in the ABC of Reading as part of a theory of language that I've heard some people describe as naive or simpleminded: "Language was obviously created, and is, obviously, USED for communication." (ABC, p. 29)
Your legislator can't legislate for the public good, your commander can't command, your populace (if you be a democratic country) can't instruct its 'representatives', save by language.
I recently stumbled on a passage in Wittgenstein's Investigations that reminded of this idea:
Not: "without language we could not communicate with one another"--but for sure: without language we cannot influence other people in such-and-such ways; cannot build roads and machines, etc. And also: without the use of speech and writing people could not communicate. (§491)
Pound makes it clear that literature is that specialized use of language which keeps it working properly. Literature just is the rectification of names, correction of usage. Cheng ming.
"If a nation's literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays." (ABC, p. 32)
I believe that Hamlet was talking about something along these lines in his first soliloquy.
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
(I take it "business is not properly run" = "unprofitable use of the world".) The abiding concern of these pages is the condition of all the uses of the world, the shape they're in, their form, which may ultimately be traced to the state of current usage, to grammar.