19

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)?

4
  • 28
    Apple doesn't feel the need to be backward compatible with the grammar you are used to.
    – JohnFx
    Sep 6 '10 at 21:08
  • 1
    @JohnFx Lol!! Good one.
    – Kris
    Jan 23 '12 at 7:52
  • 1
    Think different. You'll see the logic.
    – Kris
    Jan 23 '12 at 7:57
  • 4
    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. Sep 20 '14 at 18:26
13

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

5
  • 1
    I knew I could count on you to come in with a descriptivist-supporting factoid. You don't, perchance, use a Mac? :-)
    – Chris
    Sep 7 '10 at 0:35
  • 3
    @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
  • 5
    There may exist old instances of the usage, but when Apple introduced the slogan it was still sufficiently unconventional grammar to invite comment. Sep 7 '10 at 1:21
  • 2
    @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
  • 1
    The 3rd edition OED antedates M-W with a citation from 1588: R. Parke tr. J. G. de Mendoza Hist. Kingdome of China 173 — They came from countries so farre off, and apparelled verie different [Sp. diferente] from that they do vse, or otherwise haue seene. They also note that the 1st edition had remarked ‘Now only in uneducated use.’ but that seems no longer to apply, given how their most recent citation is from the Washington Post from 2012. I wonder whether this version is as movable as adverbs normally are, though. Seems not to be.
    – tchrist
    Jul 19 '19 at 21:43
26

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.

6
  • 4
    This is how I always thought of the slogan.
    – Kosmonaut
    Sep 7 '10 at 2:31
  • 1
    I always thought that a phrasing like that should have quotes... Think "Different", but I think you might be on the right track.
    – Chris
    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
  • "think differently" is a terrible slogan: Don't tell Lisa Simpson. Feb 24 '16 at 16:23
  • Perhaps, but what's the grammatical construction for "think fruit"?
    – Patrick
    Jun 9 '18 at 4:27
5

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.

5

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.

4
  • 3
    "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
  • This usage is different. Nominal ('substantive') adjectives are used with the definite article (the poor, the good, the underprivileged, the opposite). 'Think different' is modeled on 'buy wise', with a flat adverb. Apr 13 '15 at 8:20
4

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."

4

"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.

0

If the message is taken to mean:

Think "different".

Then it could be grammatically incorrect. Just not sure I can say this is "punctuationally" correct, but from a logo/branding/marketing point of view the use of punctuation may take something away from the impact of the message even if making the intention of the message unclear.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.