Can Use of English Language and Grammar Define Intelligence?
What if I told you Steve Jobs was a moron, and that only his lack of grammar was enough evidence to support my claim? The founder of Apple (which, according to the Atlantic Wire, just last year surpassed Microsoft to be the “world’s most valuable technology company”) has been repeatedly acclaimed as one of the few geniuses of the 21st century so far (Hudson). The “genius,” however, has stuck with the same grammar-nightmare-of-a-slogan since 1997: “Think Different.” Has the 5.4 billion dollar genius forgotten all about his adverbs? If you have ever watched a television special featuring Jobs or an Apple commercial you might also notice that he refers to his products incorrectly. Jobs repeatedly refers to his products as people instead of objects: “’iPhone’ can do this” or “’iTouch’” can do that,” instead of “The iPhone” or “The iTouch.”
If the ability to utilize proper English language technique goes hand in hand with intelligence level, can the Apple founder even really be called a genius? Surely, with his innovative technology and ability to run such a valuable company would lead us quickly to disagree. Intelligence level can be measured by many factors; therefore people should not make value judgments about other people’s intelligence based on standard English language use. The two are clearly not related, and while Apple’s use of bad grammar may simply be part of some silly marketing scheme, there have been plenty of geniuses throughout history who have made their fair share of grammatical slip-ups, as well.
Even though many scholars consider Abraham Lincoln to be the best president the United States ever had, he was not a part of the sophisticated grammar club either. In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln says (quite horrifically), “Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.” The same President who kept the union together and led to abolishing slavery might have needed to brush up on his writing skills, but that is not sufficient ground to say he was not intelligent.
The judgment of a person’s intelligence level must be a cumulative evaluation based on much more than just skillful language use. Making value judgments based solely on a person’s grammar use ignores any other intellectual flaws he or she might have, perhaps a difficulty with problem solving, common sense, or simple street smarts? If a man can write with flawless English, but cannot solve any problems relative to his own life, how can he still be considered intelligent?
While some might argue that successful use of English language is the only way for a person to effectively convey their thoughts, it is important to make sure that such a person has valuable enough thoughts to begin with. An author can write an entire paper forged with impeccable grammar and sentence structure, but this means nothing if the entire substance of the paper has no meaning or insightful truths. The Webster dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment,” so if one can successfully run the most valuable technology company or the country as president, why should it matter if he cannot tell you where you need a comma, period, or semi-colon?
“Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Intelligence.” www.merriam-webster.com. January 3, 2011. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intelligence
Hudson, John. “The Secret to Apple’s Success: Bad Grammar.” www.theatlanticwire.com. December 20, 2010. January 3, 2011.
Lincoln, Abraham. “Second Inaugural Address.”www.bartleby.comMarch 4, 1865.
January 3, 2011. <http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres32.html>
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