Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Thing / Think Coming

Not too long ago, when I was a young and vibrant stage actor—oh, all right, it was 30 years ago—I appeared in the world premiere of a play in which the author, a New Englander, had written some dialogue that went something like this: 

            I believe she is a very nice person.

To which another character replied: 

     If you believe that, you’ve got      
     another thing coming. 

The actor who had the latter line assumed there was a typographical error, and what he read was: 

            If you believe that, you’ve got   
      another think coming.
When the author corrected the actor, a heated discussion ensued as to which was correct.  You know how playwrights are.

The meaning of the phrase—“you’re wrong, and you should reconsider”—would seem to support think, which was recorded as a noun in 1834. Tait’s Magazine contained a phrase about “having time for our… think.”

In fact, most authorities agree that the correct phrase, which can be traced to 1898, is “you’ve got another think coming.” In that year an article in The Syracuse Standard related, "Conroy lives in Troy and thinks he is a coming fighter. This gentleman has another think coming.” 

The earliest citation for the phrase using thing is 1919, in another Syracuse paper, The Herald: "If you think the life of a movie star is all sunshine and flowers you've got another thing coming." 

“Another thing coming” is what is known as an eggcorn—a spoken word or phrase that is misunderstood by the hearer. The coinage of eggcorn is attributed to Geoffrey Pullum, writing in a blog in 2003 about a woman who substituted the phrase egg corn for acorn. Related to malapropisms and mondegreens, eggcorns are usually one-word mishearings in a phrase, resulting in a new usage, such as “spurt of the moment,” “duck tape,” and “anchors away.”  For more information about eggcorns, see my earlier blog at:

Or better yet, read page 132 in my book Words Gone Wild, of which a dwindling few copies are still available in a few book stores or via

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is also dwindling, especially in popularity, financial resources, poetic quality, and good sense.  One cannot say the same of his output of drivel, which is egregiously represented by this atrocity, apropos of nothing, making us wish we had another thing coming:         

                        Is that Henry Fielding? 
                        Yes—also he’s tippling, 
                        To temptation he’s yielding, 
                        While Rudyard is Kipling. 

                        And is Sir John Suckling? 
                        He seems to be frowning, 
                        While Robert is buckling 
                        His belt as he’s Browning. 

                        Now who is George Gissing? 
                        Whose hand is he holding? 
                        Or is he just hissing 
                        To watch William Golding? 

                        Ian seems to be Fleming, 
                        Or maybe he’s bowling, 
                        He’s hawing and hemming, 
                        While J. K. is Rowling.

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