Building on previous work predicated on the co-evolution of language and the brain, this article takes the view that (a) appropriate behavior – linguistic or otherwise – is adaptive; (b) from the standpoint of the speaker’s processing system, it is chiefly a matter of activating skills arising from background knowledge. This background knowledge, I begin by arguing, should be seen as part of a decision-making process, as construed by Damasio (1994). Next I provide a sketch of how appropriate behavior arises from the corresponding memory system. Following this I set reasons for viewing linguistic appropriate behavior in terms of the same apparatus. In the final section I consider the implications of this adaptive perspective for the notion of context.