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To get to another side.

Can we conclude from the indefinite article "an" in "another" that the chicken did not have a definite plan in mind?

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  • 5
    The famous joke-riddle does feature the definite article: Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.
    – Robusto
    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:12
  • 1
    As Robusto says, this is not the usual wording, but in any case, I don't think we can conclude any such thing.
    – Avon
    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:16
  • 2
    There may be a valid query here, but a less bizarre example is needed. Sep 5, 2015 at 12:16
  • 1
    I can tell you for a fact, he was trying to commit suicide.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 5, 2015 at 12:27
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    @Dan Bron: At the end of a 50-minute session, the man lying on the couch asks the psychiatrist, "So, doc, have long have I got?" The shrink replies "That's it for today."
    – TRomano
    Sep 7, 2015 at 9:53

1 Answer 1

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First things first: as several commentors have pointed out, the standard form of the joke is¹:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the other side.

That is, the standard joke does use the definite article, which invalidates the premise of the question.

ngram of joke forms, where *get to **another** side* doesn't even appear

Nevertheless, let us see if we can come up with another example in order to explore the idea that the indefinite article implies lack of certainty.

Let me paraphrase @NicestHippo on Twitter, here:

What should we call this giant advertising board?

PHIL: A philboard

BILL: I have another idea

So from the "a" in another, could you conclude that Bill does not have a definite idea in mind?

No? Not convinced? Alright, let's return to the original joke: just how many sides does a road have, anyway?

¹ See for example, Wikipedia's article on the joke, whose images and references have collected some of its earliest forms and uses, as well as the varieties which have evolved over time: not only is the definite-article version canonical, the indefinite-article version isn't even mentioned or attested.

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