That the ideal way to communicate and reach understanding is by speaking the same language, is a widespread view: it is rarely questioned in debates concerning language, (intercultural) communication, and interpretation. I shall argue that Hans-Georg Gadamer, too, suffers from this common language “syndrome.” Donald Davidson is one of the few philosophers who explicitly uttered qualms about the necessity of a common language. Davidson critiques Gadamer’s common language idea, and rightly claims that a common language is not needed for communication and understanding. I show that Davidson has been unable to develop this insight fruitfully and underestimates the importance of the “embeddedness” of communication in (what Gadamer calls) a tradition. In this essay, a confrontation is offered between both views. Neither comes out of the confrontation unscathed: Davidson’s notion of idiolect should be de-essentialized and needs to be supplemented with Gadamer’s view of the necessity of taking into account the importance of tradition(s) for mutual understanding. Yet Gadamer’s view has its own flaws: communication and understanding cannot be reduced to “fusion of horizons,” openness, or tolerance. One of the dangers of this Gadamerian perspective is that in the name of tradition and openness in theory, the procedural rules redefine tradition on so narrow a base that the real life status quo changes not a jot.

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