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Erin McKean

Founder, Reverb Technologies/Wordnik

TEDCRED 200+

This conversation is closed.

How important is a common vocabulary for sharing ideas, and how do we arrive at one?

This Live Conversation will start on November 3, at 2pm ET / 11am PT.

Do we need to all be "on the same page" to have productive conversations? Do we have to use the same language or talk about ideas in the same way? What are some examples of vocabulary that's divisive, rather than helpful (e.g. "death panels")?

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Closing Statement from Erin McKean

Thanks so much for all the great stories and suggestions -- such a big question can't be answered in an hour, but it's wonderful to be able to talk about it with the TED community! For more discussions follow my Twitter at @emckean. Thanks everyone!

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    Nov 3 2011: The vocabulary acts as a bridge while communicating ideas across people.Thereby, only when the vocabulary/word used to communicate is perceived in the same context and meaning, can the thoughts move across people.Thereby, using vocabulary or words which means the same across people plays a key role in transmitting ideas.
    • Nov 3 2011: Don't know if a common vocabulary guarantees that words mean the same thing to all parties. We have an emotional vocabulary too.
      • Nov 3 2011: That's a really important point. We can often agree on what a word means, but not on how it feels. Think of words like "shrill" ... when applied to women that word is really offensive.
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        Nov 3 2011: I have to agree here. Even if words have the same underlying meaning for everyone, our experiences associated with them changes our emotional and psychological perceptions of them. We aren't walking, talking dictionaries--our real world experiences are going to impact our personal lexicon.
        • Nov 3 2011: what i wonder frequently enough - speaking several language since birth... eh, earliest days like - is which strategy to take when talking to someone, especially someone new.
          the US American way is to start at the basics, lay out the common ground, establish all the things we have in common, given that, given that etc and then finally get to the potential disagreement. the french way is start with your point and if this causes offence or confusion about a word, trace back, slowly defining words and concepts until you find where the disagreement actually lies.
          what is the best strategy ?
        • Nov 3 2011: Lily, it'd be fun to do some kind of study and assign participants different strategies ... I would love to see that tested!

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