Friday, October 25, 2013

Word of the Week: Nother

Welcome back to Mrs. M's Word of the Week. Today we descend from our usual linguistic heights to explore one of the seedier byways of American English. We also introduce a new speaker, the Grammar Prig.

This week's (so-called) word is Nother.

noth·er (ˈnəTHər), adjective & pronoun informal
1. Nonstandard spelling of "another".

Used in a sentence:

"Don't go away," said the radio announcer, "there's a whole nother hour of Prairie Home Companion coming up right after this break." (Heard weekly for years on Wisconsin Public Radio. Oh, the shame of it.)

Most recently seen or heard in:

This NPR interview.

Why I like this word (or not):

I don't like this word. But as a mysterious quantifier with chilling grammatical implications, it holds a certain fascination.

Just think of the dreadful possibilities: if "whole nothers" can gain such a wide acceptance, the day of partial nothers cannot be far off.
"Still hungry, sweetheart? There's a half nother sandwich left on the plate."
"We're not out of sugar - there's a third nother cup in the bag."
And it's only a matter of time before Nother crosses the pond and corrupts the metric Old World:
"I say, Basil, hadn't we better stop for petrol? We've only a tenth nother litre in the tank."
Nother wasn't always such a sinister word - it entered the language rather innocently some centuries ago, bearing on its youthful head an apostrophe which marked it out as a harmless contraction of "another". Can't you just picture it? Cute little 'Nother, freckled and barefoot, wearing ragged overalls and chewing on a straw, or swimming in the crick with its cousin 'Nuff.

But something went wrong along the way. Cute little 'Nother grew up, dropped its apostrophe, and got in with a Bad Grammar crowd. (The dropped apostrophe also went astray, and now hangs out in all the worst dive's.)

Some might say Nother is an innocent victim - a piteous orphan forcibly separated from its initial letter and compelled to labour in the field of shoddy grammatical construction. Others might see it as a harmless bit of linguistic whimsy, or a pleasant way to channel their inner hillbilly.

The Grammar Prig weighs in with: "Nother is no helpless victim - it's a shifty interloper with nefarious designs on the purity of the language. I hereby issue a call for its immediate banishment - though I realise the unlikelihood of such an event. This is America, after all, where grammatical horrors are daily embraced and welcomed into Common Usage. Now that Nother has infiltrated Public Radio, there's no telling where it may go. The next thing we know, it will be running for President. With a misplaced apostrophe as its running-mate."

The Grammar Prig's Better Way to Say It:
  • Another whole
  • Another full
  • Another completely
  • Another entirely
For example:
"There's another full hour of our show coming up after this message."
"That's another story entirely."
Nother. Victim or villain? You be the judge.


Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the blogger. (But she really enjoys writing them.)

That's all for today, folks. Tune in next week, when we'll focus on a...nother (and better) word.

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How do you feel about nothers, whole or otherwise?

Do you have any pet grammatical peeves?

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  1. I have it in mind that 'an orange' was originally 'a norange' but I cannot, now, find the reference. How annoying...

  2. Villain when used in proper conversation. Funny when used in a humor piece. I think there is a time and a place for colloquialisms --- probably okay on Prairie Home Companion. On All Things Considered? Not so much.

  3. I do have one, and believe me I am not a grammatical Queen. I am actually quite horrific when it comes to grammar, but the words a lot bug me big time when I see allot, or alot. People it is a lot!

  4. Another entertaining post - and I dislike that word too, very strongly!!! Another word I dislike is 'fortunely' - the mis-pronunciation of 'fortunately'. Over here in Australia, interviewers and announcers on TV seem to be the worst culprits.
    Keep up the good work and have a lovely weekend! Hugs to you, Joy x

  5. Like. I dislike like. Like when someone uses it, like repeatedly, with few other words in between. Like, really? Like, totally.
    Gracie :)

  6. Ha! Two years ago I wouldn't probably understand what this post is all about!! After those two years and after numerous books in beautiful language od Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott - I know!! But as my English is not (and, alas, never will be) perfect, I cannot be a judge of others. That said,
    like Grayseasailor, I also dislike the misuse of like, like totally. "Per sey" or "per say" in writing are like, totally offensive to me. As is "voila" pronounced a little like "walla" . But then, they are not English words, are they.

  7. Where do I begin? I think the grammatical error that annoys me the most is how "I" and "me" are misused. "i" is always used in the subjective. Example: John and I had a super vacation. "Me" is always in the objective. Example: Who is going on vacation with John and me? Personally, I blame English teachers for this "misuse" of I and me. But I can vent about that on my own Wetcreek Blog. Enjoying these word of the week posts, Sue.

    1. I MUST use a larger screen. i kan,t sea a think on thIs ipad screen! ;))))

  8. You really make me smile Sue, but I have to say I have never heard anyone using this word thank goodness it's always been another and not nother and if I had heard anyone using it I would have thought that it wasn't really a proper word anyway, just some one too lazy to pronounce the an, There are so many words and phrases out there which really annoy me please don't get me started haha

  9. Heard in the UK occasionally as a contraction of another, but thankfully not otherwise, yet. Oh Sue, such horrors to ponder, were the little blighter to cross the Atlantic.

  10. Far too many grammatical peeves for me to write in this comment box. But my biggest ones have to be the mix up between was and were and did and done. Very common in these parts and sometimes I find it very difficult not to correct people on it. Drives me totally loopers!!
    Rosie xx

  11. It's not something I've heard or seen used here (not in that way,'whole nother') so the first time I encountered it in a book I found it a bit bewildering for a minute. Then the penny dropped! But then regional variations are always confusing to people outside that region (however big the region is) - no doubt I spout weird Scotticisms all the time :-D.

  12. I live in SA - here we are subjected to "could of, should of and would of", "vis and vat (this and that) and wiff and wiffout (with and without) and my personal favourite "yous people and us peoples" - nuff said?

  13. This was truly a great read. I had to giggle because this word has bothered me for quite a while, too, although I have fallen pray to 'nuff. Couldn't help it! Anyway, it's just a...nother thing we seem to have in common!

  14. Not a grammar queen by any means but several annoying things come to mind (in addition to many posted by others!) - "Where's it at?" instead of "Where is it?" sends me screaming and running! "You know what I mean?" when not really a question that needs answering as part of conversation!

  15. The misuse of your and you're is the one I absolutely hate and see on signs all over the place. Don't they understand those are two different words!!?? This puts me in mind of one of my favorite posts on grammar ever: (FYI, this one is fine but some of her other posts contain bad language, so if you decide to go clicking around, consider yourself warned)


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