On ‘nother’ and why it is the best word

You might think you’ve never heard this word … and you’re probably quite sure that you’ve never said this word … But you’re probably also wrong.

Let’s set the scene: It’s Thursday and you’re on your lunch break. Your workmate says, ‘We’d better get back to work.’ You sigh and say, ‘I can’t believe there’s still a whole nother workday before the weekend.’

Sound at all familiar?

What about: ‘There’s a whole nother cake in the fridge!’ ‘That’s a whole nother story.’ ‘She wants me to write a whole nother chapter by Monday!’

Or maybe you have noticed this word, but you try not to use it because it’s not ‘correct’. I mean, you’re right, it’s not correct. But language exists to be built upon and changed.

What I love about the word ‘nother’ is not just that we created it (we do that all the time—way more than you think, actually). It’s how we went about creating it.

Here’s how we get to the word ‘nother’: What we’re saying in the examples above is actually just ‘another’ (‘There’s another cake in the fridge.’), but we want it to sound more dramatic than just ‘another’. So we add ‘whole’ into it and split ‘another’ into ‘an’ and ‘other’ … which is fine … except that we know that we can’t say ‘an whole other’, because only words beginning with vowel sounds take ‘an’. So instead of changing ‘an’ to ‘a’ and saying ‘a whole other’ (which would be correct) we move the ‘n’ from the ‘an’ to the ‘other’ and we get ‘n+other’ = ‘nother’.

And what is great is that this isn’t the first time we’ve made up words in this way! ‘Apron’ used to be ‘napron’, but over time instead of saying ‘a napron’ we started to say ‘an apron’ until ‘apron’ replaced ‘napron’ in common usage.

So instead of looking down on people who say ‘nother’, see them as the cool kids of language use. They’re doing something great without even knowing it! And (don’t lynch me) I do think that ‘nother’ could well become its own, legitimate word in time.

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