Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!

one moment please...

Use-Mention Error

(also known as: UME)

Description:  Confusing the word used to describe a thing, with the thing itself.  To avoid this error, it is customary to put the word used to describe the thing in quotes.

This fallacy is most common when used as an equivocation.

Logical Form:

“X” is the same as X.

Example #1:

My son is made up of five letters.

Explanation: The words (mention), “my son”, are made up of five letters.  My son (use) is made up of molecules.

Example #2: Anselm's Ontological Argument

p1. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.

p2. God may exist in the understanding.

p3. To exist in reality and in the understanding is greater than to exist in the understanding alone.

p4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

Explanation: In premise #1, God (use) refers to the being -- this is the whole point of Anselm’s argument, but in premise #2, he equivocates to the concept of God (mention).


Azzouni, J. (2010). Talking About Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations and Fictions. Oxford University Press.

Registered User Comments

Wolfgang P
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 03:28:24 PM
In example 1 you call >"my son"< mention and >my son< use.
In example 2 you call >"God"< use and >God< mention.
(I added >< only for emphasis of the actual words.)

Now I am confused. Did you mix up use/mention in the second explanation?

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, March 01, 2017 - 07:43:54 AM
You are correct - something is wrong. I used quotes not because of mention or use, but because "my son" was the actual word. In the second example, God was the theological character in one case and a concept in another. Neither use justifies quotes.

login to reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:

Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.

About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Software Copyright 2019, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.