For the record, the NED (that’s the New English Dictionary – now sometimes
abbreviated to OED) ‘defines’ “to have another thinK coming” as “to be greatly
mistaken”. It works in tandem with the phrase “if he thinks that ...” or
The earliest cite the NED found is from a newspaper, “The Syracuse Standard,”
in 1898: “Conroy lives in Troy and thinks he is a coming fighter. This
gentleman has another think coming.”
To simplify, alla Grice:
Conroy thinks he is a coming fighter. He has another think coming. Or, using
Grice’s favourite material conditional:
If you think Conroy is a fighter, you’ve got another think coming.
Grice’s way to deal with this is in terms of a syllogism (vide his “Aspects of
1 You think something. (as Grice would have it, U2 thinks that p).
2 You are wrong, or someone thinks you are. (U1 thinks that ~p, or q)
3 You have another “think” coming.
We may grant that English, even at Oxford – where Grice taught -- is not always
But surely to think something, and then think again, is the only interpretation
of “to have *another* think coming” that makes any sense – i.e. that is not a
flout to Grice’s maxim, “Try to make your conversational one that is true.”
The utterance is thus roughly equivalent to the duller one of “having second
thoughts” – or a second think, if you mustn’t -- about stuff.
Note that if McElroy were right, we would have to make sense – in terms of
Grice’s maxim mentioned above – of something that appears _false_.
To wit: to think something and then “have another thing coming” makes no sense.
Unless we take the sympathetic approach, as McEvoy grants, that Livy takes
regarding the whole think: “A thing must be a think before it be a thing”).
The OED agrees with the Griceian interpretation, saying of “to have another
thinG coming” merely “aris[es] from [a] misapprehension of ‘to have another
think coming’,”, i.e. an inability to get the Griceian conversational
While the Grammarist, quoted by McEvoy, agrees that “another think coming” is
the original expression, the Grammarist argues that “you’ve got another thing
coming” “makes literal sense”, which some don’t get at all.
“Another think coming” is a rather jocular, witty way to say someone is
“Another thing coming,” by contrast, implicates that the utterer desires the
‘other thing’ coming to be a fist in an idiot’s face” – which flouts Grice’s
conversational maxim, ‘be polite!’