How to tackle intelligence: word meanings

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At university our syndicate was referred to as ‘The Brains Trust’ and in other groups I was touted as ‘Brainiac’. Thus, I thought I had intelligence – quite a bit of it if you don’t mind my arrogance for a moment.

I thought it meant the ability to learn, acquire information, store knowledge and so on.

But then after finishing my final year at school, a few of my male friends in the army told me that they worked in Intelligence. So I smiled while my eyebrows came together across the bridge of my nose, because I did not have a clue what they were talking about. But I was not going to let them know that.

No spelling mistake

Then I wrote a corporate video for a client who called themselves Intellient and whenever agencies look at my CV they assume this is a spelling mistake, which is not cool for someone who claims to be an expert of the English language. It would have been far easier for me if they had called themselves ‘Intelligence’. The subtlety of dropping the ‘g’ was lost on just about everybody.

Later in life, when I started my own business I approached a few companies and they said their clients were involved with government intelligence. Now in South Africa and probably the US, even the UK that is a contradiction in terms.


Just last month a potential client phoned me and explained his fintech loyalty card had a backend that built intelligence. There it was again.

Collins Dictionary defines Intelligence as the quality of being intelligent or clever, the ability to thinkreason, and understand instead of doing things automatically or by instinct.


The second meaning that it offers is “Intelligence is information that is gathered by the government or the army about their country’s enemies and their activities.” Synonyms include espionagespyingsurveillance, information gathering. And of course, it applies way beyond armies and government.


Let’s not ignore the advent of  social media and as relevant as it is, its market intelligence comes at a high price.

Now that fibre connectivity is all the rage there are towers going up faster than Lewis Hamilton – and all over the place. There are posts on just about every suburban corner and guess what they are doing? They are gathering intelligence. When I drove past and said those very words, I realised the true meaning of the word in its other sense. These towers track driver habits, car registration details, number of trips on a particular route etc – ergo intelligence. Apparently they have already proved their worth in helping police crack crime syndicates and secure arrests. Now that’s what I call intelligent!

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Picture by David Hellman – Unsplash

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