Book Excerpt: Steven Pinker: Words Don't Mean What They Mean

In his new book, The Stuff of Thought, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker explains why speaking plainly may not be all it's cracked up to be

Illustration for TIME by Dan Page.

In the Movie Tootsie, The character played by Dustin Hoffman is disguised as a woman and is speaking to a beautiful young actress played by Jessica Lange. During a session of late-night girl talk, Lange's character says, "You know what I wish? That a guy could be honest enough to walk up to me and say, 'I could lay a big line on you, but the simple truth is I find you very interesting, and I'd really like to make love to you.' Wouldn't that be a relief?"

Later in the movie, a twist of fate throws them together at a...

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