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Anyone interested in language would find this a fascinating read. I found the chapter on profanity especially interesting and illuminating. However, this may not be the best thing to listen to while driving: Pinker is an engaging writer, but in places the subject matter is so dense that I had to turn it off and listen to something lighter. 

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As ever Pinker is a master at expressing complex linguistic, psychological, and ethnobiological concepts in clear and comprehensible language. His examples are very entertaining and relevant, and the range of his thinking about these issues is astonishing. Said range takes the book all over the place, with some topics more interesting than others, and some perhaps browbeaten a bit, but overall well worth reading. High points for me, ripped unedited from an email: He discusses it [zeugma] only in its syllepsis form of wielding two incompatible senses of the same word: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." (Ben Franklin) "She came home in a flood of tears and a sedan chair." (Charles Dickens) "You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff." (Groucho Marx.) This discourse the multiple senses of a single word (as opposed to multiple meanings, the standard homonym they teach in elementary school) introduced me to the concept of "polysemy," which is the linguistic term for tightly linked but distinct senses of a word, e.g., chicken can be an animal or a kind of meat, newspaper can refer to an organization or an object, book can refer to a body of information or a physical object. Later in the book I ran into my old friends Lakoff, and Johnson, whose metaphor metaphor Pinker dissects (and to some degree disputes) at length, and some pretty fascinating reflections about language and time. Pinker points out that language -- with its stock of arbitrary signs and grammatical rules that arrange them in sentences, giving us an unlimited number of combinations of ideas about who did what to whom, and about what is where -- essentially digitizes the world. And yet, it is a "lossy" medium in that it discards information "about the smooth multidimensional texture of experience." Think of the poverty of our vocabulary for smells, sounds, and what Pinker calls "other channels of sentience that are not composed out of discrete, accessible parts. Flashes of holistic insight (like those in mathematical or musical creativity), waves of consuming emotion, and moments of wistful contemplation are simply not the kinds of experience that can be captured by the beads-on-a-string we call sentences. And yet metaphor provides us with a way to eff the ineffable. Perhaps the greatest pleasure that language affords is the act of surrendering to the metaphors of a skilled writer and thereby inhabiting the consciousness of another person."  

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