Sunday, May 11, 2008

Think/ing again

I'm blessed to have been a teenager during the 80s when heavy metal was still gleaming. That might explain why I say 'you've got another thing coming' instead of 'you've got another think coming.'

I was surprised when I heard only a few years ago that the expression with think was the original. I had always thought it was a later turn of phrase. But there's plenty of evidence that it has been around as long as another thing. Or longer. The antedating game has been playing leapfrog and will continue. But the company line is that another think makes sense structurally and another thing is idiomatic. Reason to think that another think came first.

Jan Freeman definitely prefers think and laments that it's getting pushed aside by thing

But You've got another think coming is a bit of wordplay; substituting the meaningless thing erases the entire point of the phrase. Unfortunately, it looks inevitable - for now.

I disagree with the argument made by Freeman and others that thing can only be understood idiomatically. Doesn't the phrase make sense structurally? If someone holds a view or belief they might be expected to change their mind because of new evidence -- because there's something new on the way.

I'm missing something. That happens a lot.

Please do yourself a favor and read Jan Freeman instead of William Safire. Her column is about real language.

Geoff Pullum, not one to hand out praise easily, commends her for having great style and humor, good research and a real sense of what is important and what is not.

That I agree with.

1 comment:

  1. "Another thing" simply makes no sense to me. I grew up with "think", so maybe that's why, but "thing" is just ... idiomatic.

    It's odd to me, because such refashionings often do make sense in some way. But "another thing = another piece of evidence"? I never would have thought of that, and I'm not sure that it works for me.


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