91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Are you getting fresh with us?

Two well-known company slogans have raised some grammatical hackles, based on their use or non-use of adverbs.

We know Eat Fresh comes from a restaurant.  

“You won’t be surprised I don’t have a problem with it, Curzan says, "but when Subway started using the slogan there were some folks who said, “we don’t like the grammar of that."

"The question was whether fresh was the right form to be used because people said, “I think you should have an adverb – like 'eat right.' Or 'eat well.' It raised this grammatical question of what exactly is fresh doing in Eat Fresh.

Curzan says many of us would think "eat fresh food, eat things that are fresh."

"So let’s address this question of whether the fresh there can be an adverb.  If it was eat fresh food and we just got rid of food, then fresh would be an adjective, and we’d just decided not to say food," Curzan says.

But fresh is usually an adjective, so we say fresh flowers or the fish is fresh. But it can be an adverb.

"If you think about the bread is baked fresh every day, there it’s an adverb. But it means something a little different. Baked fresh means it was just-baked. Eat fresh would be eat freshly – which isn't such a catchy slogan," Curzan says.

"And in some ways the slogan did its work because everyone was talking about it in terms of is eat fresh grammatical. And some others could say who cares, because people are talking about the slogan."

There’s another big slogan that riled some people: Think different.

"Again this adjective/adverb issue," Curzan says. "This was Apple. They rolled this out in 1997, and it had people talking, once again as to whether it should be think different or think differently."

Curzan says they're not entirely synonymous.

"Think differently is something I should process, whereas think different means I should think about different things. Not everyone would agree on that, and there were people who thought that slogan was ungrammatical. But again, I have to say the slogan did its work, because people were talking about the grammar. The slogan won an Emmy.

It had Curzan thinking about things like think big.

And think small, a successful slogan for Volkswagen in the 1960s.

"You can see you’re getting adjectives there where it does seem to be thinking about things that are big, or thinking in big ways, so I think we give Apple the Think Different and Subway the Eat Fresh," Curzan says.

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.