March 20th 2017
Today I learnt something new about the English language, and I think it’s probably worth sharing.
For all of my adult life, until about 8 hours ago, I thought that the phrase was “you’ve got another thing coming” but, it’s not. The correct phrase is actually “you’ve got another think coming”
That blew my mind when I found that out, so I jumped straight on wiktionary, and the OED, and Grammarist to find the etymology of the phrase.
“You’ve got another think/thing coming” has what is called a ‘Folk Etymology’ wherein it has been so widely misused, that that’s kind of become the accepted version. People think that it is ‘another thing coming’ for a couple of reasons.
- Grammatically, it makes more sense than ‘think’
- In the correct usage, the two ‘kay’ sounds that join the words will often be perceived as just one ‘kay’ sound when spoken aloud. Hence ‘Think Coming’ -> ‘Thin Koming’ -> Thing Coming
I promise you, this is real.
If it’s easier to imagine, think of it as such:
“If you think X, then you’ve got another think coming”
As in, you may think X, but after I tell you what is actually true, then you are going to think Y. You’ll have another think coming.
It simultaneously makes no sense, and perfect sense. And that’s one of the things I love/loathe about the English language.
Other, more widely known, phrase with incorrect folk etymologies include ‘mute point’, ‘on route’, ‘for all intensive purposes’ ‘one foul(/fowl) swoop’ and a related one that I’ve been over before ‘which begs the question’.
All of these phrases are often incorrectly pronounced/spelled, because people have only ever heard them out loud, and never seen them written down. This is what happened with ‘thing/think coming’.
“You’ve got another thing coming” was a phrase populised by Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. I’d like to give the writers some credit and say they made him use it incorrectly on purpose as a character trait, but I just don’t believe that’s true.
People heard it as ‘thing coming’ and then assumed that was correct, so carried on using ‘thing coming’
“You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” is also the name of a Judas Priest song.
These occurrences of the error in pop culture further solidify the error within pop culture, and you end up with this kind of negative spiral.
Until tomorrow, if you don’t think that’s fascinating you’ve got another think coming.