Intelligence – fact or fable?


My dog was very pleased to point out to me at the weekend that an article in The Times listed the cairn terrier as the small breed with the most intelligence.

The big dog rated as most intelligent is the collie who, apparently, enjoys being mentally stimulated with such well know brain teasers as tug of war, or fetching a ball.

Really? If those are marks of intelligence, never mind the dog, I’m up there with the gods!


My dictionary defines intelligence as:

  • the ability to perceive and comprehend meaning
  • good mental capacity
  • military information about enemies
  • a group, or department, dealing with such information

The word has roots in the Latin ‘intellegere’ – to discern / comprehend. But, according to my etymology dictionary, the word also has its origins in the roots of the word legend.

A legend, as you know, is a popular story handed down from earlier times whose veracity is uncertain – a marvelous story in fact. It’s Latin origins are in ‘legenda’ – passages to be read, and ‘legere’ – to read. However, in a pre-reading era ‘legere’ originally meant to gather / collect.

As intelligence (certainly in the military context) has to be collected or gathered, the common root  for cauchythe two words is obvious. Or is that just a ‘marvelous story,’ like the cairn’s legendary cleverness?

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