Another Think Coming

The Oxford English Dictionary, granddaddy of them all, notes in its online version that the word "think" has appeared in print as a noun as early as 1834.  It also makes specific note of this idiom:


b. to have another think coming: to be greatly mistaken.

1937 Amer. Speech XII. 317/1 Several different statements used for the same idea{em}that of some one's making a mistake...[e.g.] you have another think coming. 1942 T. BAILEY Pink Camellia xxvii. 199 If you think you can get me out of Gaywood, you have another think coming. 1979 Jrnl. R. Soc. Arts CXXVII. 221/2 Any design consultant who thinks he is going to get British Leyland right by himself on his own has got another think coming.


I mention this because our entire household has been ripped apart by this seemingly simple phrase.  How?  Because somewhere online I happened to stumble across an argument over whether the idiom was "another think coming" or "another thing coming."

The former is the phrase I've always used, and I'd never considered that it might be incorrect because it's entirely straightforward: if you think x (rather than y), you've got another think coming (so that you can think y).  The fact that it uses think as a noun, rather than using the more mundane noun thought, is what makes the phrase memorable and amusing. 

"Another thing coming," however, doesn't even make sense to me.  Why would one say "another thing" when no thing has been mentioned before?  "If you think I'm happy, you've got another thing coming" doesn't have a single noun to which "thing" could refer, unless it somehow is intended to refer to the pronouns "you" or "I," either of which would make the sentence totally nonsensical:  "If you think I'm happy, you've got you coming."  Gibberish.

Now I'll admit that I've heard "another thing coming" before, but I assumed it had to be one of these:

A) a mis-heard linking of the "ng" sound in "think" with the hard c at the start of "coming" 

B) a deliberate malapropism intended for humorous effect

C) a reference to the 1982 single "You've Got Another Thing Coming" by Judas Priest, which I always assumed was making a suggestive reference to the same "thing" that's mentioned in pretty much every metal band's catalogue somewhere.  (Spinal Tap, for example, refers to it as the "pink torpedo.")

This online argument, however, led me to believe that the "thing" form of the phrase was more widespread than I'd believed; a fair number of people some of them educated and reasonable, had been using "thing" seemingly all their lives.  The majority seemed to go for "think," but the minority was much larger than I'd have expected, and the mere fact of the dispute--the lack of unanimity--began to make me doubt myself.

The doubts weren't settled when I went to the Authority--the OED--because the above citation for "another think coming" was not as definitive as I'd hoped.  The 1937 date was, uh, a bit more recent than I'd hoped.  Actually a good bit more recent. Because as it turns out, the OED has a citation for "another thing coming" as well:


* to have another thing coming [arising from misapprehension of to have another think coming at THINK n. 2b] = to have another think coming at THINK n. 2b.

1919 Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald 12 Aug. 8/3 If you think the life of a movie star is all sunshine and flowers you've got another thing coming.


Whathefuh?  It's a misapprehension of think, but the citation of the misapprehension comes from 26 years before the earliest citation of the original version?  Isn't that like claiming that a plagiarist had his version done 26 years before the original writer?  Can this be accomplished without the use of a time machine?

I still believe I'm right, and I believe the OED is right that "another thing coming" is a goofed up version of the existing idiom, but you'd think that they'd have an earlier citation of the existing idiom, wouldn't you?

Well, apparently that one think isn't going to be enough.


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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on January 15, 2008 5:36 PM.

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