Re: A whole "nother" issue

Subject: Re: A whole "nother" issue
From: Janet Swisher <jmswisher -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Rochelle McAndrews <rmcandrews -at- csiu -dot- org>
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2010 09:38:42 -0500

On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM, Rochelle McAndrews <rmcandrews -at- csiu -dot- org> wrote:
> As far as changing the rules of English usage and poor usage being a
> drag on the profession, please tell me:
> Where can I find a definition for the word "nother"?!

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nother

Note that this usage has been around at least 100 years.

> As used in: "...a whole nother issue."
> Why do so many people separate the "a" from the "nother"? This is a
> special pet peeve of mine. I even heard a network newscaster say it a
> few weeks ago.
> Wouldn't more correct usage be: "another whole issue" or "a whole
> separate issue"?

Well, yes. But I haven't heard "nother" outside the static phrase "a
whole nother X". For example, you don't hear "a big nother X". So, it
not a "productive" usage. And it's generally used in informal, not
formal, contexts. I'd bet that the newscaster you heard used it in
between-stories banter, not while reading a news report.

The separation of "a + nother" is a play on the ambiguity between "a +
<n-initial noun phrase>" and "an + <vowel-initial noun phrase>", which
has been present at least since Old English evolved into Middle
English. For example, our modern word "orange" derives from Arabic
"naranj" due to essentially the same ambiguity.

In short, "a whole nother" is a bit of informal word play. My advice
is to continue avoiding it in formal contexts, and aside from that,
lighten up :-)

--Janet
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References:
A whole "nother" issue: From: Rochelle McAndrews

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