WNW: "Think" Is a Noun?

One night at critique group several years ago, I corrected a sentence Lu Ann had written. It went something like this:

"If you think that, you've got another think coming."

Naturally, I changed think to thing, because, first off, think isn't a noun, and second, the phrase isn't, "you've got another think coming" but, "you've got another thing coming."

Duh. Of course.

But when I mentioned it, she insisted, "No, the phrase is, 'you've got another think coming.' You think one thing, but you're wrong, so you have another think coming after that."

I argued with her, saying that she'd heard it wrong, that think made no sense.

"But that's how we said it in Indiana when I was growing up," she said.

In the end, I offered to ask my father, Mr. Linguist, what the correct version of the phrase was. His gut reaction was the same as mine, that it was thing. But he decided to ask around at work to see what others in his department thought.

The response surprised both of us: his non-scientific survey revealed an almost even split between the two forms but with (horrors!) think getting slightly more votes.

What the . . . ?

He did a little more digging and found out that think used in this phrase has been around slightly earlier than thing, and that another thing coming likely came about because:

1) Think and thing sound so similar that if someone heard think used this way, they could easily assume the person meant thing, especially since

2) Let's face it, think really doesn't make that much sense here. You have another think coming? Don't you mean another thought?

A lot of the opinions varied based on where the person's geographical background was. And sure enough, people from the Midwest (like Lu Ann, from Indiana) all insisted on another think coming.

It still makes me twitch.

Think is a verb, folks, not a noun.

Except . . . even the OED has one tiny entry listing think as a noun . . . including "to have another think coming." Dating from 1937. Darn it.

Rather grudgingly, I reported back to Lu Ann that think in this phrase indeed predated thing.

"I knew it," she said with a grin.

Apparently, I had been the one with another think coming.


Eeeewwwww. I agree with you. How funny- kind of like I grew up calling soft drinks "pop" and my husband insists they're "soda."

Hey, some time ago I came across something that said "champing at the bit" is actually the correct form of the phrase most people say as, "chomping at the bit." Have you ever addressed this?
::Jan:: said…
I think that I am never going to get it right Annette. But I think that you are great. I cherish your knowledge.
LisAway said…
I grew up thinking it was thing and later realized it was think.

It's just supposed to be sorta funny, I think, turning think in to a noun. Kind of silly.

But you don't have to love it.;)
Kristina P. said…
I have never heard of it being think. How odd!
Lara said…
I always thought that one was totally wrong...a case of mis-hearing...whenever I saw it! Guess I had another think coming, too! I can see how it could have been used humorously, though. Makes sense.
NorahS said…
I've never heard of it being think! Makes me twitch, too. Yikes!
Brooke said…
Ohhh, this gets under my skin, too. I can't believe so many people went with think. It just SOUNDS wrong. Doesn't it?
Kimberly said…
That makes me twitchy too!
Heidi Ashworth said…
It's just one of those nonscenical (sorry if I spelled that wrong) phrases that isn't supposed to be "right". My mom is from Minnesota and she uses the "think" version all of the time. It doesn't make me twitchy at all--it's just a "saying". Of course, my mother invents words all of the time (like chisly for a chilly drizzly day, etc which she uses in public) so we are pretty tough at our house.
the letter Bee said…
That makes me uncomfortable. It's kind of like when I hear people say supposably. I always thought supposidly was the correct word. Then I found out that not only is supposably a real word, they are both synonyms of each other. Hearing supposably still makes me uncomfortable.
Erin said…
I knew it was think because there is a heavy metal song that says it..."You've got another think coming" guitar mustic, "you've got another think coming." I'm too lazy to look up who sings it.
That's so funny. I never knew. I would definitely think it was thing.
JustRandi said…
I've never heard of it being "think". Kinda gives me the willies.
Anonymous said…
Think: a contemplative moment, a period of reflection, a measured amount of time dedicated to deep thought usually with the purpose of arriving at a solution as in "having a good think", most notably used in the coloquial sense of "if you think so, you've got another think coming."

Who would have thunk it?
This has always confused me. I hear it both ways and don't know which it is supposed to be. I just skip saying it all-together :)
Luisa Perkins said…
I'm clearly a Coastal Girl. Plus, there's that Judas Priest song....
Sandra said…
Think is the way I have always heard and used that phrase. Using thing is what makes me shudder. It really is not supposed to be serious or grammatically correct, it is just a way of saying "think again sweetheart because I am right and you are wrong." Only much nicer ;)
Sher said…
I make that mistake all the time! Sometimes I'm just in such a fury of typing that my subconcious takes over and I type a completely different word than I was thinging. (hee, hee)
Karlene said…
Heard it both ways. I decided that "think" qualified as slang, so I don't give people a hard time--just chuckle a little under my breath.

There's also that "all of A sudden" vs "all of THE sudden" thing. That seems to be regional as well.
Growing up I always said thing. I think I heard think for the first time as an adult. But I'm going to be honest with you, I really liked it. I thought it was pretty clever, kind of a pun. So it's interesting to me to hear that think came first.

All of A sudden drives me crazy but I've been assured that it's supposed to be A not THE. Whatever!
CountessLaurie said…
Hi Annette,

So, not being all that saavy, I googled Google Reader to see what it was all about, and today, your blog is a Top Recommendation! I keep seeing you commenting on the blogs I read, so I figured I would pop on by (being a top recommendation and all :-). I am glad I did!

It was always "thing" here on the east coast. I've never heard it as think. Very interesting!

wenderful said…
I never would have guessed that. I've always said "thing". And I grew up in the east, midwest, and California. Now I'll have to "think" twice before uttering that saying.
I still vote thing. I'm stubborn that way.
An Ordinary Mom said…
I also find it interesting how in different parts of the country, some people say soda, others say pop and some just say Coke for everything.

Here is a question I have for you, though. While in high school, one of my friends and I were discussing whether or not it was beck and call or beckon call. What are your thoughts?

(Anyone else having trouble viewing this blog ... I can see individual posts, but the "home" page is empty of posts. Odd.)
An Ordinary Mom said…
But of course, now it works ... go figure :) !!
Chaka said…
After reading your Bio and your post I just want you to know I am very intimidated by you and your understanding grammar,spelling, and punctuation. I'm afraid my blog sounds like Huck Finn is narrating it. Do you tutor writers?
Annette Lyon said…
Chaka, One big rule around here is that blogs are allowed to have grammar and usage errors. (Heck, I know mine does, even if I am a grammar nazi.)

But to answer you question, I do edits and reviews for Precision Editing Group. If you're serious about getting some feedback, contact them (the link's on my sidebar). You can request me as you editor/reviewer.
Scribbit said…
Yea I've heard it both ways actually and I think the "think" version has the homier, intentionally grammatically incorrect for the sake of folkiness feel.

I say "thing" myself. The one that gets me is when people say "Put your John Henry right here on the line" (meaning your signature). It makes me want to stop them and say, "No, it's John Hancock, one of the founding fathers and perhaps the richest man in the colonies at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. John HENRY is an American folk hero who worked on the railroad. Get it straight." I hear it wrong so frequently I've wondered if it too has crossed over into the realms of realism.

I'm so silly :)
Summer said…
There's no way I'll ever accept 'think' in that sentence. Lol!

Just like I will never accept that saying the word nucUlar is ok.
Jennie said…
Thing makes no sense; it doesn't relate to the first part of the phrase at all. The phrase is supposed to be a cute way of saying "think again." Grammatically correct or not, the point is to actually say something that makes sense.
I knew it was think. It's a play on words. It was never meant to be grammatically correct. To my mind it makes more sense than thing. How can you have another thing coming if you haven't had the first thing come?

The English language evolves and changes. If you look at the original language you wouldn't understand a word.

I don't get hung up on this type of stuff. After all Suess was famous for creating new words and I love Suess.

Now there is one thing that bugs me. When people say aks instead of ask. It makes them sound stupid even if they're not.
Mina said…
Ugh. I *think* I may need to give up on the English language. It's one crazy *thing* after another.

(And I think that "think" sounds way uneducated. Sorry.)
LeeAnn said…
I have only occasionally heard people say "thing" instead of "think" and always looked at them strangely because it didn't make sense with the idea behind it. For the record, I grew up in Maryland and Utah, and lived in Kentucky and Missouri as an adult. Expressions like these are coined which sometimes means they aren't "correct" but they communicate quite well.
The Boob Nazi said…
Here I was just thinking of assimilation.... hahaha how can we all be so wrong???? But if it's in the OED, I guess we have to take it as the gospel truth! hahaha
Marsha Ward said…
Another "thing" coming? Makes no sense in context. I've always heard "think" in that phrase, and I got it from my folks, who grew up in Utah and Mexico--the Colonies.

This is probably something that came out of usage by a then-celebrity or radio comedian. Any clues about that from the OED?

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