a whole other question

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 9 22:22:38 UTC 2002

Yerkes, Susan said:
>Dear word mavens on this highly interesting list-serve:
>I'm a newspaper columnist in San Antonio, Texas, who reads religiously and
>seldom can contribute. Now I have the gall to ask for your insight, to boot.
>I've been writing about Texas' most recent initiative to boost tourism...a
>special license plate can now be purchased featuring one of the hoariest
>state slogans the tourism bureaucrats can come up with. It is:
>"Texas.  A Whole Other Country."
>Aside from the inappropriate period (but it might make some squeamish to put
>a colon in a tourism slogan)
>I am  intrigued by the use of "a whole other"
>in an official slogan. (Not to mention appalled to think it will soon grace
>the license plates of those who want to pay extra for the distinction)
>I have heard people use the construction "a whole other....." occasionally,
>and just the other day (not the whole other day, however) an articulate
>Ohioan used it in a sentence over the phone, which surprised me.
>Some of my colleagues say they'd like it better if it was "a whole
>I assume that colloquialism really splits "another" into two, putting the
>word "whole" in there for emphasis.
>I further assume that "A whole OTHER" is a variation on the above. But is it
>new? Who started it, and is there any explicable reason for its survival as
>a colloquial phrase?
>Have y'all (as we say) ever addressed this? Is it an appropriate question
>for this list? And if so, any comments on the usage, variation and/or
>acceptability of  the phrase?

I dunno if it helps with origins, but I was in grad school (in
linguistics) at UT Austin in the mid-late 70s. Some of my classmates
were Texans, but many of us had come to Texas for grad school. I
recall a discussion of both forms ("a whole other" and "a whole
nother"). I can't tell you which came first, but both forms were
definitely alive and kicking in Texas 25 years ago.

Alice Faber                                             faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                                  tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                                     fax (203) 865-8963

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