How misapprehended can Grice get? Or Livy, for that matter (“A thing must be a
think before it be a think.”).
If one has a _rationale_ for something, seeing that 'rationes essendi' count,
one should go for that _rationale_.
I.e. there is a rationale for using ‘Well, Grice’s got another thinK coming’
but little for the duller Columbo-oriented (and shorter), another thinG
coming’, the former should be preferred.
As the Oxford dictionary agrees, “another thinK coming” is [a] phrase aimed at
someone who has a mistaken view.”
There is a self-reflective implicature about it: “You’ve got another thinK
coming" is an intentionally MISTAKENly ungrammatical apodosis, aimed at someone
who has a MISTAKEN view, and which is typically expressed in the apodosis. The
‘second’ (for ‘another’ etymologically means ‘second’ – vide Jennings, “The
genealogy of disjunction”) ‘think’ is MERELY IMPLICATED – since it’s usually
the NEGATION of the first ‘thinK,’ which is deemed mistaken.
[Peter] Strawson might disagree, “If you think that the king of France is bald,
you’ve got another thinK coming”. Strawson denies Aristotle’s Tertium Exclusum,
and hence Strawson’s implicature in uttering his utterance may be lost on
[Paul] Grice (hence: “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”).
Of course it is always possible to be more explicit here: we have “p” and
“not-p”, which is almost like a “q” (as we mind our ps and qs). In ALL uses of
the conditional, where the apodosis – or consequent – goes “you’ve got another
thinK coming’ – there is a reference – sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit
via ‘implicature’ (as in McEvoy’s Bono example) to the incorrect (or false)
Someone has uttered an utterance "x" signifying thereby that p. The utterer of
the conditional judges that p is not the case – that p is "mistaken" (The
utterer holds that "~p," as it were – our “q”).
The phonological point made by McEvoy of course holds well: by uuttering a
conditional whose apodosis contains "thinK" which, in Cockney English does
sound like 'thing,' the utterer has managed to IMPLICATE that nobody is
I say there is an element of self-reflexivity here in that our “~p” may
implicate (ironically) "q,” where “q” now would be something like “See how
clever I am in pretending to think that ‘thinK" is a correct way to express the
noun "thought,” while punning with ‘thing’).
On top, there is a minor extra implicature in that the first implicature relies
on the use-mention distinction. “If you think that p, you’ve got another
‘thinK’ coming!’ (Implicature: Notably that I think that not-p). Only quotes
are unpronounceable. But I once saw Anderson Cooper making the ‘quote’ gesture
as he used the cliché – never one as used by Ritchie!
It is not otiose that “another thinK coming’ is almost always used in the form
“If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming,” implicating “you
are greatly mistaken, and circumstances are about to prove you wrong”.
E.g., from “Only fools and horses”:
“If you think I’m staying in a lead-lined nissan hut with you and Grandad and a
chemical bloody khazi, you’ve got another thing coming.”
It’s become such a cliché (cfr. Grice on ‘pushing up the daisies,’ versus
‘fertilising the daffodils,’ which “has not,” Grice notes, “yet become an
established idiom”) that you can often get by with just the apodosis (“Well,
Bob’s got another think coming”).
For the record – vide Grice’s reference under “References” -- “Another think
coming” first appeared in print in the ‘naughty nineties’ (in 1898 to be more
precise), while the duller “another thinG coming” didn’t show up until 1906,
during the reign of Edward. True, that’s only eight years, but the Oxford
declares quite definitively that “another thing coming” comes from “a
[Griceian] misapprehension of ‘to have another think coming’.” – I would say, a
misapprehension of the Griceian “to have another think coming’.
Then again, much as we love the gang at Oxford, arguments from authority have
not really floated everybody’s boat. There is, fortunately, a simple
explanation of the “misapprehension” of this most Griceian of implicatures
which ironically leads many people to gravitate to the “another thing coming”
For “another think coming” version to conform to our basic sense of English
grammar, “think” would have to be a noun, not a verb. But “thing” is already a
noun, so “another thing” seems natural. “Another think”? Weird.
But guess what? “Think” is a noun as well as a verb.
“Think,” qua noun, first appeared around 1834 meaning “an act or period of
“Let’s have a cigar and a quiet think,” 1891.
By 1886, “think” is “a thought” or “an idea” (“A thing must be a think before
it be a thing,” 1887 – translating Livy).
Alas, we rarely see this noun form of “think” today (outside of this particular
phrase, ‘another think coming’), but in the Victorian naughty nineties, when
the phrase was popular, “another think coming” would have been understood as
equivalent to “another thought coming,” i.e., a change of mind.
For those immersed in Livy, the implicature is obvious from a start.
So why not just say “thought” in the first place? Well, because it would have
ruined the symmetry of the explicit material conditional phrase, which depends
on the first “think” (“If that’s what you think”), a verb, matching the second
“think” (“… you’ve got another think coming”), a noun – and if you use it in
quotes it may be a ‘verb’, too.
That’s what gives the phrase its zing.
Substituting “thing” for that second “think” ruins that balance and really
doesn’t make any sense.
You can’t say “another thing” if there wasn’t a first “thing.”
Of course, if the noun form of “think” had been more popular back in the 1890s,
the “thing” version would not have popped up almost immediately.
But it’s never too late to start a Griceian campaign to restore the clever
implicature behind “another think coming” to its rightful place.
Black, D. and J. Fenton, “He’s got another think coming,” featured in “Mrs
Grice, H. P. “I care a hoot what the dictionary says” – Austin: And that’s
where you make your big mistake.
Parricelli, J. and C. Towns, “Another think coming” (Provocateur).