A-whole-nother

The word “another” is quote obvious born from a contraction of “an other.” I want “an other” opinion. Strangely, it has a different meaning when split apart, at least in colloquial use.

If I have a cookie and I want “another,” you would likely extrapolate that I would like a second cookie of the same type. Whereas if I wanted “an other,” you might believe I wanted a different cookie, perhaps even in place of this one.

Lately, I heard a phrase – not a new phrase, but certainly it’s gaining in popularity – “a whole nother.” “Nother” is not a word, so the phrase makes no sense in a literal translation. But how it’s used is interesting, because it actually has no true translation to an existing phrase that is quite as concise.

If I have a cookie and I want “another,” as we discussed, I might want a second. If I want “an other,” I might want a second, or possibly a different type. But if I tell you I want “a whole nother” cookie, you might believe I want an entirely different type of cookie – not merely another variation.

If we’re discussing movies, and I bring up something iconic like Star Wars, that might be “a whole nother” conversation. If we’re talking about the quality of computers and I discuss OS X vs Vista, that might be “a whole another” debate.

Urban Dictionary refers to this grammar destruction as “in-fix” (much like a prefix or a suffix). One thing is certain though – there is no phrase I know that comfortably fits into the common and casual vernacular that serves the same pupose as “a whole nother,” so I’m going to continue to use it until another phrase can replace it.

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