This is episode 4, and I’ve got another question for you: Is the expression “you’ve got another think coming” or “you’ve got another thing coming”?
Former President Barack Obama and Judas Priest are tied up in the answer, but before I get to it, I wanted to give a special shout out to my new podcast and newsletter subscribers. I look forward to continuing this word exploration journey with you. You all are awesome, and my next newsletter is coming your way next week.
And about that question…
Episode 4: Should You Trust Judas Priest? (“Another Think Coming” or “Another Thing Coming”?)
While “you’ve got another thing coming” might sound better to your ear, the expression is actually “you’ve got another think coming.” As in, “if that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.”
Does the correct version make a noun-fussy grammarian shudder? Perhaps. But this correct form dates back at least to the early 1910s and possibly before.
H.L. Menken actually uses it as an example of how words switch parts of speech—from verb to noun, in this case—in his 1921 edition of The American Language, though others have remained disquieted by this use of “think” as a noun.
In 1932, M.H. Weseen used “another think” as an example of wordings that simply aren’t correct in his collection, “Words Confused and Misused.” He didn’t say this, offering “thing” up as the better option. Rather, he just didn’t agree with the use of the expression at all.
And I hear you, Mr. Weseen. The evolution of the English language is a bit strange at times. We can’t always just let new words become standard, but this is one instance of a phrase that has become so commonly used that it is, in the twenty-first century, officially okay.
To be fair, the Oxford English Dictionary has been correcting people about this eggcorn since 1919—though it wasn’t until the 1980s that mass confusion seemed to have set in. I’m looking at you, Judas Priest. Heavy metal and heavy influence apparently.
And did I just say “eggcorn”? Yes, I did, that’s an awesome term that refers to a confused word. Imagine saying “acorn” with a deep southern accent. What would you have? Eggcorn. There’s no such thing as an “eggcorn,” but that doesn’t mean that people won’t call “acorns” by that term. You might hear reference to an “escape goat,” but a “scapegoat” is probably the term that speaker is looking for. We don’t “pass mustard,” unless maybe you’re at a picnic, but you might “pass muster.” Eggcorns one and all. Aren’t you happy we have a word for such things?
Meanwhile, how fun is it to connect Barack Obama to Judas Priest? Obama’s mistake was a passing remark, which I can absolutely forgive. He’s an otherwise eloquent speaker. But Judas Priest? It was a hugely popular song title!
We can do better. We absolutely can. But at least you now know the difference.
Plus who needs seven degrees of separation for Obama and Judas Priest? I did it with a single word. You’re welcome.
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