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Founder, Reverb Technologies/Wordnik


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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")?


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: It is very good to communicate in common vocabulary but often times contexts throws things out of order. One word could mean one thing in one context and totally different thing in another context. It is easy to communicate in common vocabulary but that happens after initial contact. The more you spend time with people from a certain geographical area, the more you tend to be on the same level.
    • Nov 3 2011: Context is EXTREMELY important -- that's where I think traditional dictionary definitions fall down. Without context, how do you know whether the guy wearing the tuxedo is the waiter or James Bond?

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