The present article discusses texts by Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and William Carlos Williams that explore the interface between words and things. In the process of focusing on everyday objects, the corporeality of words themselves is often highlighted in these texts. They consequently negotiate fundamental questions of language, that is, the very thing at their basis. The gap between word and referent confronts a literary text with paradoxical challenges and addressing the problem of linguistic denotation and reference often goes hand in hand with critical attitudes towards language as a system of symbolic signs. In Woolf’s, Plath’s and Williams’ writing, such attitudes are frequently expressed and simultaneously counteracted with creative poetic strategies. In other words, we are at the same time alerted to what language cannot do, and shown what it can do.