A Whole Nuther Thing

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Illustration of a whole nuther I often hear people using the expression “a whole nuther.” As in: “That’s a whole nuther thing.” A local football coach was quoted in the paper using it recently. No dictionary I know includes nuther. I don’t believe anyone who uses the expression would even argue that nuther is a legitimate word.

I did a little web research and found some interesting discussion of this odd construction. One these two theories seems to explain it:

1) Infixation: The modifier whole is inserted in the word another. This is a linguistic phenomenon called infixation, which most commonly occurs in expletives. Mild examples would be “absobloominlutely,” or “guaran-darn-tee.” There’s a country song I heard recently about a girl from “Ala-freakin’-bama.”

2) Reanalysis: The other theory is that people confuse another with a nother, and are simply applying the adjective whole to the second word. This sounds odd, but it’s a linguistic occurrence called reanalysis. It’s how we now have the word apron. It derived from the french word naperon. People misconstrued “a naperon” as “an aperon.” Crazy, but true.

Either explanation works for me, but it was interesting to learn, by just doing some Googling, that it’s a matter of some debate.

The question remains, of course, whether “a whole other thing” or “another whole thing” are adequate replacements for “a whole nuther thing.” Should we just accept it as common usage?

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian Wasko

Brian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.

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  1. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko06-28-2011

    Can you share any of the other “special” words? I’m glad this one doesn’t bother you, Randi.

  2. Randi Crumrine
    Randi Crumrine06-28-2011

    I had a college professor- education dept. from out west who used this expression regularly ( if I remember correctly) There were other special words. I think it adds charm.

    • Kara
      Kara08-24-2015

      I think we should embrace both old and new words and phrases that may seem contrary to what is thought to be proper…it adds spice to how we communicate and share with each other! =)

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