Well, That’s Different

The data analytics unit at one of what we used to call the Big Four accounting firms exhorts us to Think different. Do different. Be different.

Be different is fine (grammatically and as a matter of practice), but the other two? Oh, dear.

They really should be Think differently and Do differently, as those verbs need adverbs (typically ending in –ly) rather than adjectives like different.

The copywriters wanted something that would catch the eye, of course – even if that meant resorting to a grammatical solecism.

What these phrases mean is ‘Think[or do] that which is different’ – but that would be too much of a mouthful (or eyeful).

So, there is a logic to the construction, but it’s still a stretch grammatically.

Sometimes an adverb is not required: Think big, Think pink, Think victory. But with different, let’s just say it’s different.

And besides, the whole verb + different formulation is a bit of a cliché: Apple is famous for Think different back in the late 90s; and CBC Radio has recently used Hear different in exactly the same way.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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