September 28, 2007

Have another think

Mark wonders why the OED claims "have another thing coming" is derived from "have another think coming," and yet provides a first citation of the former from 1919 and of the latter only from 1937. The truth is, the updating of the OED takes place in piecemeal fashion, and not every entry can be replenished with new findings at the same time. When the OED first added "have another thing coming" to the entry for thing in 2004, the earliest citation given was from 1981. That was quickly antedated, first by Jesse Sheidlower with a cite from 1959, and then by me with a cite from 1919. So the thing entry was revised yet again to incorporate the new antedatings. The entry for think, however, hasn't been touched for quite a while. When it's finally updated, it can include cites much earlier than the one from 1937. I've reproduced the earliest cites I've found so far on the right. The first is from the Washington Post of April 29, 1897, and the second is from the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 24, 1898. But I certainly don't expect those first cites to stand for very long, as digitized databases of newspapers, magazines, and books continue to expand at a rapid pace.

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at September 28, 2007 09:22 AM