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What is the origin of the phrase “you've got another thing/think coming”?

Which is correct: "another think coming" or "another thing coming"? I have seen/heard both. Is one correct or more common?

  • Interesting Ngram on this. (That doesn't really answer the question per se, but it's a good starting place). – J.R. May 24 '12 at 1:53

The full phrase is if you think x, you've got another think coming.

Wiktionary notes on usage:

This expression is used as a rebuke, often in constructions similar to "If X thinks that Y, he/she has another think coming!" Sometimes the word got is included, in the familiar constructions has got and have got, as "(someone)'s got another think coming", "they've/you've got another think coming".

The form to have another thing coming is often seen, and may have been aided by a mishearing of the /k/ of think blended with the /k/ of coming, making think sound like thing.


In looking through the Ngram results (which heavily favor think), I stumbled across this very interesting excerpt from a book that addresses this very question:

Other idioms in English are so opaque semantically that they have undergone phonological modifications possible only because speakers could not even identify the component words. While some speakers say, "if you think X, you have another thing coming," other speakers swear the correct form is "...you have another think coming," each group doubting the very existence of the other dialect group until confronted with a living member of it. (Nicolas Ruwet and John A. Goldsmith, Syntax and Human Experience)

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    Yeah, I grew up thinking it was another thing coming, and thinking no more about it. Until I encountered the think spelling, and rethought it. Yes, that sort of makes sense. But it's still pronounced without a geminate /k/, so it doesn't matter how it's spelled; it'd be the same either way. Since then I haven't worried much about it. – John Lawler May 24 '12 at 2:10
  • Including the word got in your Ngram will give much cleaner results. See @MrHen's answer here. – Callithumpian May 24 '12 at 2:35
  • I also grew up with another thing and I still don't believe think is original. My thoughts are along the following lines.. Ehhmm, Ready?? Lots of people, when laying out the list of arguments for their cause will follow that list with, "... And another thing... " and go on to list more arguments. This was the origin of the phrase in my mind. Think, I reasoned, was then just someone's clever pun. – Jim May 24 '12 at 4:37
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    @Jim: I'm not going to try to persuade you either way, but your adamance goes along nicely with what the authors of the book said, i.e., that many are often surprised to discover there is another camp. (By the way, it never even occurred to me that it might be "another think coming" until I started researching this question. LSNED.) – J.R. May 24 '12 at 9:34
  • @J.R. - Yes, after reading your answer I decided to phrase my reply here adamantly ;-) – Jim May 24 '12 at 20:19

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