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Not too long ago, Apple Computer used the phrase "Think Different" as an ad slogan. Is this a grammatical error (that is, it should be "Think Differently"), or are they trying to say something else (and what would it be)?

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24  
Apple doesn't feel the need to be backward compatible with the grammar you are used to. –  JohnFx Sep 6 '10 at 21:08
    
@JohnFx Lol!! Good one. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 7:52
    
Think different. You'll see the logic. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 7:57
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Think different is probably a variation on the colloquial expression think big, which is not the normal way we use the verb think. The other slogan is perfectly normal syntactically, but a bit awkward because of the overly long subject, the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world. And by the way, I don't think advertising is amazing at all, I find it dull and of low quality; it's nothing like e.g. good literature or cabaret. –  Cerberus Sep 20 at 18:26

7 Answers 7

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Merriam-Webster claim that different as an adverb dates at least as far back as 1744.

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I knew I could count on you to come in with a descriptivist-supporting factoid. You don't, perchance, use a Mac? :-) –  Chris Dwyer Sep 7 '10 at 0:35
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@Chris I don’t write the Merriam-Webster dictionary, man—I just read it. They don’t give citations for the 1744 usage, but I’m sure they have them. And yes I do use a Mac but I would have left the same answer no matter who had used different as an adverb. ;-) –  nohat Sep 7 '10 at 1:07
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There may exist old instances of the usage, but when Apple introduced the slogan it was still sufficiently unconventional grammar to invite comment. –  ShreevatsaR Sep 7 '10 at 1:21
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@ShreevatsaR good point. Ad agencies have on occasion done deliberately assailable things with language and grammar to invite comment. Cf. “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” –  nohat Sep 7 '10 at 1:51

Everyone's assuming that this is "think differently" with the -ly dropped off, but note that there are also formations like think fruit or think pink, and "think different" could belong to that group. In other words "What should I think about this product?" "Think (that it is) different".

Anyway, "think differently" is a terrible slogan.

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+1 for thinking different –  Jonik Sep 7 '10 at 2:21
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This is how I always thought of the slogan. –  Kosmonaut Sep 7 '10 at 2:31
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I always thought that a phrasing like that should have quotes... Think "Different", but I think you might be on the right track. –  Chris Dwyer Sep 7 '10 at 2:54
    
+1 @Jonik Actually it should be -1 to all those who failed to see it for what it is. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 7:55

Well, it's certainly not the first time an adjective is used as an adverb in American English. I'd call it informal, but not necessarily ungrammatical.

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One possibility we're forgetting here is the that the adjective may be a substantive adjective. Substantive adjectives are adjectives which are used alone without the noun they are describing. For example, good, bad, and ugly in this sentence, 'The good, the bad, and the ugly, which is really, 'The good people, the bad people, and the ugly people.'

In this case, Apple's slogan, 'Think different', would be read 'Think different things', and is thus a perfectly grammatical.

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"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is about three people. Clint is good, Van Cleef ("Angel Eyes") is bad, and Eli Wallach (Tuco) is ugly. –  delete Sep 7 '10 at 13:33
    
It could be about only three people, but the phrase could also be construed to mean all good, bad, and ugly people here, e.g., 'At our convention, we had the good, the bad, and the ugly.' –  J D OConal Sep 8 '10 at 1:15
    
+1 The logic is perfect; amounts to the same as @delete 's answer. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 7:56

Yes, it is a grammatical error, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the copywriter, ad agency, and Apple all knew it and liked it. Toying with grammar is, after all, a way to think different. Ly.

As to your alternative, whether they're trying to say something else, I think you're correct there, too. What they're trying to say is "buy our stuff, not Microsoft's and Dell's." The grand irony is, of course, that following mass advertising is hardly being different, no matter how you spell it, but I'm typing this on a MacBook and my iPhone is plugged in next to it, so you'll find no judgment from me.

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Apple did not mean "think differently". That is, they are not suggesting that you think in a different way. They really meant "think different", that is, rather than thinking about the things you usually think about, think about things that are different.

An analogous slogan might be, "Thinking about your opportunities as a high school graduate? Think college."

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"Think differently" would mean: Please think in a way that is different from the way that other people are thinking. "Think different" means: Think about things that are different, or how to do things that are different. The slogan doesn't tell you how to think, but what to think.

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protected by RegDwigнt Jan 18 '12 at 11:26

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