And Another Think

If you think you’ve heard all of the linguistic twists and turns, you’ve got another thing coming.

Well, actually you’ve got another “think” coming. But ask most people how to spell the phrase that means you get another chance, and you’re more likely to get a “thing” instead of a “think.”

Which is right? They both are, to a degree.

The original, and still champion to those who value the old ways, is a parallel construction: “If you think…, you’ve got another think coming.” It means, in our example, that if you’re of the belief that you’ve heard all the linguistic twists and turns, you are wrong, and you should think again.

It’s really hard to pronounce “think coming,” though, with those two hard “k” sounds back to back, and all but those with very precise diction elide “think” into “thing.”

In addition, “think” as a noun is almost obscure; many dictionaries today list its use as “informal.” It’s easy, then, to see how the phrase would become “another thing coming,” and it’s actually been spelled that way, on occasion, for close to a hundred years. If most people think it’s that way, it will get that way, eventually.

But wait! Look at the definition of “think” as a noun in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Edition: “an act of thinking has another think coming”! Methinks the battle is not yet lost!

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Merrill Perlman managed copy desks across the newsroom at The New York Times, where she worked for 25 years. Follow her on Twitter at @meperl.