Submitted by ppp on February 22, 2012


I hear people, including journalists and other professional speakers, say “...but that’s a whole nother story.” I’m afraid that “nother” will show up in the dictionary someday as our language continually devolves.


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"A whole nother" is an example of an infix. Just as there are prefixes that are at the beginning of a word, and suffixes which go at the end, so there are infixes which go in the middle. In some languages they perform important functions; in Old Irish, for instance what we would call prepositions were often infixed. In English they are only used in a few cases, and then for emphasis. Compare "absofuckinglutely," for instance. So "A whole nother" is actually "awholenother," and the "a" at the beginning is only to be considered to be the article "a" by reanalyzation," which is ironic, since the word "another" comes from a reanylization of "a nother." But that's a whole nother story.

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"Nother" is already a real word and has been in use since the 11th. or 12th. century.
It also meets what many consider the ultimate approval in that it appears in the OED.

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A whole other just sounds dumb. To me adding the "n" is like adding the "n" to "a" before a vowel like an iceberg. Nother just rolls off the tongue better following a whole. I think it's a good thing

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I doubt that "nother" will ever become a real word, because it is only used in the phrase, "a whole nother."

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Did I say European? I mean exotic - shark's fin is not European. Just picture my embarrassment.

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a whole nother story = a-whole-nother story = another story with the emphatic "whole" placed in the middle of the word.

It reminds me of the Londoner landlord of a pub I once knew well who punctuated every phrase with the colourful "bleedin'" (="bleeding" from "by my lady" ref. to Virgin Mary - a medieval cuss word). Introducing interesting European menus to what was on offer
(this was the 80s) he told his customers to try the Greek one, and shark's fin soup too: "we've got bleedin' Jaws on the menu tonight, mate, bleedin' Jaws. And what's more, taramableedinsalata".

But all that's a whole nother story.

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I omitted the smiley in my last post, and you will note that I said "One could argue".

As for butchery, I would agree that the English themselves (especially the politicians and media) are probably the worst offenders.

It may amuse you to note that in the "of a" thread I was accused of "petty snobbery".

How's the GAN coming along?

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@Goofy ... Actually, I was thinking more of the second etym ... if it is obsolete except in the US then it must hav been noted for a long time and isn't something new. BTW, noþer is found in OE as well but I don't know offhand how it was noted without digging ... No need since you hav already proven the point that with the 1330 quote that it isn't some recent "devolution" of English.

The only "devolution" is that so few today can look at that quote and eathly read it.

@HairyScot ... LOL ... You didn't go there! I could as eathly argue that "American English" has held up better than "British English" with less "deterioration". Let's see ... AE still has "gotten" for the past participle but BE has "deteriorated" to only "got" ... AE still has the subjunctiv: "If I were ..." which seems to hav fallen out of BE where "If I was ..." seems to be the norm.

Most of the bemoaning about the "deterioration" or "devolution" of English is like this one, someone who uncunningly thinks some word or usage to be wrong (and often, wrongly, blames it on Americans) when, in truth, the usage has been about for several hundred years.

For byspel, not too long ago, I saw a post where someone bemoaned that Americans are butchering English by noting invite as a noun ... oops, turns out that it has been noted as a noun since the 1600s. ... Or win as a noun ... Or impact as a verb. And even if it were true that these were recent changes, I'd call them good ones!

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I would seriously doubt that anyone saying "That's a whole nother story" is even aware that they may be using the word correctly.
They probably think they are providing some amusing emphasis along the lines of "un fucking believable".
As for undeteriorated language, one could argue that "American English" is a deterioration of real English.

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Anwulf: the "nother" from OE "nōhwæðer" isn't the same word as the metanalyzed variant of "another".

ppp: The process where "another" became "a nother" is called metanalysis, or recutting. The metanalyzed "nother" is in the OED, and it has been around along time. The OED has this citation from c1330:

Ich am comen her‥To speke wiþ charles‥& wiþ a kniȝt þat heet Roulond & a noþer hatte oliuer.

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I have never seen any evidence that English or any language is worse today than it was a thousand years ago. If language has been progressively dumbed down, how can we still communicate? How do we define language deterioration exactly? What does an undeteriorated language look like?

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Hairy Scot, can you provide some objective reason why "nother" should be seen as "dumbing down"?

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I would think we should perhaps strive to communicate better than people did hundreds of even thousands of years ago.

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The language has been, and is being, subjected to a progressive dumbing down in the pursuit of what can perhaps be described as "user friendliness".
Whether or not this a good thing is debatable.

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Hairy Scot: It seems that if some changes are detrimental, speakers are compensating somehow. Language has been changing for a very very long time, and presumably we can still communicate as well as people hundreds or thousands of years ago.

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Unfortunately not all change results in improvement.

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It's been here a long time:

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Hear, hear, Sandy.

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This is how a language is created and destroyed. Many european languages were initially derived from one language. English originally came from west german dialects. If you listen to old english you can clearly hear many of our current words, but with such a different tilt to them sometimes they're barely recognizable. Then middle English, much closer to current English, then on through British, to early continental, etc. It's constantly changing. Always has and always will, and I think it's beautiful.

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If it's good enough for Luke Skywalker...

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Language is changing, not "devolving," just as it always has.

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