Hypercorrecting A Well-known Phrase
The phrase all men are created equal has to be one of the best known in the world. Indeed, it’s used so often that it has become a cliché.
The phrase is, of course, from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1776). It also occurs in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863).
It’s a lovely phrase and I can understand why we like to use it.
Lately, however, I’ve been noticing statements like these:
Not all charity products are created equally.
Not all online content is created equally.
. . . not all apps are created equally.
Are all IT professionals created equally?
Are All Forms Of Niacin Created Equally?
I think the “equally” must find its way into these sentences because the writer unconsciously wants to follow a verb with an adverb.
If what the writers of these sentences mean to say is that these things are “not of equal worth,” then I think they should be writing equal and not equally. Especially if they are intentionally echoing the words of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Using the adverb equally places the emphasis on the act of making; using the adjective equal places the emphasis on the quality of the thing that has been created.
POSTSCRIPT: In researching this post I discovered the existence of Mum Bett, an American Founding Mother of whom I’d never heard. She should be in the school books along with Sojourner Truth. You can read about her here.
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