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The meaning and origin of the expression: Another think coming

Another think coming

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Another think coming'?

To have 'another think coming' is to be greatly mistaken. The phrase is usually spoken by an antagonist as 'you have another think coming'; the implication being that one will shortly be obliged to adopt a different viewpoint, either by the presentation of indisputable evidence, or by force.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Another think coming'?

I'm going to have a little think here. My first thought is, "is it worth embarking on a piece that refutes the 'another thing coming' version of this expression"? Many people use that version, in fact it is much more widely used than the original and correct 'another think coming' - and I know I will get emails. Such emails usually come from people who present no evidence, but KNOW THEY ARE RIGHT.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Another think coming'.The view that 'another thing coming' is the correct wording of the expression is sometimes attributed to the 1982 song of that name by the English heavy metal band Judas Priest. Just by chance I happen to come from the same home town as the band and am of the same vintage. I expect that, when using 'another thing coming' they were being deliberate and ironic. In 1950s West Midlands, they would have many times heard 'another think coming', which was a commonly used phrase then. Had anyone then used 'another thing coming' in conversation they would certainly have been corrected.

The OED is widely regarded as the definitive reference work on the Engliah language. what they say is "'to have another thing coming' [arising from misapprehension of 'to have another think coming'".

Let's press on.

The most compelling argument in support of the view that 'another think coming' is the original version of this expression is the fact that it pre-dates 'another thing coming' in printed citations.

While 'another', 'thing' and 'coming' are very common words and occur together in print in some early documents, they never do so with the 'mistaken' meaning of this phrase, but only in examples like 'one thing was coming along the road; followed by another thing, coming afterwards', or similar.

The earliest real example of the 'thing' version of the phrase that I've found is from the New York newspaper Elmira Daily Gazette & Free Press, June 1897:

They imagine that these battles and quarrels of the track are carried on after the races are over. The people who think this ‘have another thing coming’.

The Ohio newspaper The Bucyrus Journal, outdoes that by several years, by printing the 'think' version in June 1892:

Last week they thought Blaine would be the nominee... They have another think coming.

'Another thing coming' is just a mispronunciation of the original phrase. The 'thing coming' speakers may also have been influenced by a sneaking feeling that 'another think coming' is ungrammatical. Actually, a little consideration shows that it is perfectly grammatical, although it is a rather unusual form of speech - we would normally use the word 'thought' in this context. The split-second choice of how to pronounce a word doesn't give time for such considerations and many people have just opted for 'thing'.

Another reason that 'thing' is incorrect, and perhaps this should have come first, is that 'another thing coming' makes no sense. How can one have another thing coming where there is no first thing? In order for 'thing' to make any sense we would have to say 'if you thing that, you have another thing coming', or 'if you think that, you have a thing coming'. Nobody says either of these. Case proven, in my humble opinion.

Please, if you are thinking of emailing in support of 'another thing coming', have another think and then gather your evidence.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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