Another [thing / think] coming

Of course, if the noun form of “think” had been more popular back in the 1890s, the “thing” version wouldn’t have popped up almost immediately and be, judging by Google, far more popular today. So it’s probably too late to start a campaign to restore “another think coming” to its rightful place, but the whole story might win you a few bar bets.

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12 comments on this post.
  1. Robert:

    “Another think coming” might have been the original idiom, but that doesn’t mean that “another thing coming” is wrong. Both make perfect sense. If I say “If you think you’re going to steal my car, you’ve got another thing coming,” the first thing is you taking my car. The other thing is what will result if you attempt to steal my car. I don’t make it explicit, but you might not like that second thing.

    There was once one idiom, now there are two, and they are both perfectly logical. There is simply no logical basis for saying “another thing coming” is wrong. It’s like “card sharp” vs. “card shark”. There is nothing wrong with either. Sharp may have been original, but card shark has connotations of someone who is not just skilled with cards, but someone who will take advantage of you, like a pool shark.

  2. Daniel:

    Did you mean a ‘Nissen’ hut?

  3. Dave Khan:

    Robert wins the prize for being the first to play the “specious logic” card. Every crusader for every malapropism must always be willing to insist that it is right, just and “logical” to use the wrong word or phrase. Thus the crusaders for “I could care less” twist and squirm and bludgeon semantics and insist “I couldn’t care less” is less logical; the believers in “for all intensive purposes” will fight to the rhetorical death anyone who denies that their usage walks the true path of logic; loyal adherents of “falling between the cracks” will tie themselves in knots explaining how much more logical their phrase is than “falling through the cracks”.

    But oddly enough, despite all the logic-twisting some folks go through to justify their usage, logic is not even a requirement for idioms. An idiom is what it is. Using it requires no logical justification. Those who are familiar with the idiomatic usage of a word or phrase understand it; those who are ignorant of it often simply mis-hear it, and subsequently butcher and mis-use it. Say “pipe them gams!” to a youngster who hasn’t heard it, and it might be picked up in transmogrified form as “like them hams!”, and the wide-eyed, unaware youth will, in due time (or “in do time” as he might say), after repetition of his own butchered usage while remaining unaware of the original phrase, be able to explain the “logic” behind the expression, totally unaware of his error.

    So yes, Robert, there are indeed now two idioms: the original clever turn of phrase, and the mistake borne upon the wings of ignorance. Some people might think there’s no difference between a clever turn of phrase and an ignorant mistake, but they have another think coming. Those mistakes are telling, and elicit smiles.

  4. admin:

    The typo was in the original text cited by the OED. But good catch. I didn’t notice it.

  5. KT McCann:

    Ooh la la! Robert. Well said!

  6. KT McCann:

    I meant David.

  7. Chaz:

    *Addendum: further research has uncovered that a similar idiom preceded the “think” version and can be found in Coleridge’s Olde Engish Dictionary, circa 1860; “If he/she/they believe (thusly), you have another believe coming.”
    Believe was commonly used as a noun during the mid 19th century, though fallen out of practice now. Believe it or it’s not a believe.

  8. BlackHeat1974:

    David, Well said.

  9. SB:

    At 30 years old, I am just now coming across this debate on the internet. I have never in my entire life heard anyone say “another think coming”, so I would never even have know this was a debate. It has been and is always “another thing coming” where I’m from (northeast US). Maybe Judas Priest is to blame? I understand the explanation of “think”, but honestly using “think” as a noun sounds like you’re reading a Dr. Seuss book. Also it implies this other “think” is just going to dawn on the person, whereas the useage of “thing” I’m used to is much more threatening, with the “thing” implied to be an unpleasant repercussion that awaits the person as a result of their stance on whatever it is that’s in dispute. I can’t argue with the historical facts, but I do think that an idiom that’s been in use for over 100 years is perfectly legitimate, and this shouldn’t even be discussed in the same breath as “all intensive purposes”, which is an abomination.

  10. Norman:

    It’s definitely “another think” to me, and always will be. If you think x, then think again…you have another think coming. It’s the only thing that makes any sense to me, and I definitely consider it an error when I see “another thing coming.” I’m 48 by the way, from Saskatchewan. There’s nothing remotely “Dr. Seuss” about “another think” to me. Robert’s comment makes no sense at all to me. “Another thing coming” would work only in a very limited context, whereas “another think” can be used in any circumstances…for thoughts and comments as well as actions. It doesn’t have to apply only to an action that brings direct consequences or retaliation.

  11. Steve:

    As yet, no one has mentioned that the two versions sound almost exactly the same when spoken. That peculiar fact is most likely the reason for the confusion. And it is likely the reason some people say that their preferred version is the only one they’ve ever heard. They hear what they expect to hear.
    I first heard the phrase from my mother, and there was no doubt then that it was “think”. And it made perfect sense to me even as a youngster. “Think” is correct and always has been, but “thing” is just as valid now, even though it is nonsense.

  12. Mark:

    So here I am nearly thirty years later, finding out I not only heard Judas Priest wrong, but they got it wrong …

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