So often I hear people use the word “nuther” when they mean “other”. Like in “that’s a whole nuther story.”How did this happen?
First, I don’t think that the word “nuther/nother” is being substituted for the word “other” in this expression. Rather, the word “whole” is being inserted between elements of the word another: a-whole-nother.
It could be jocular usage, or it could be an example of metanalysis:
The reinterpretation of the form of a word resulting in the creation of a new word; esp. the changing of the boundaries between words or morphological units.
Our word apron, for example, used to be napron, but speakers hearing the words “a napron” thought they were hearing “an apron.” The same thing happened with auger, adder and umpire. Working in the other direction, what we call “a newt” used to be “an ewt(e).”
Some speakers may try to “correct” a whole nuther story to the ungrammatical a whole other story with the result that the latter may become a common usage.
As to how it happened–
“A whole nuther/nother story” has caught on because people who hear it like it.
It also fits the patterns of English speech. The OED, for example, offers several uses of nother, most of them obsolete, but the word has a long history in the language.
The Old English word oþer meant “a second of two.” The merger of an (one) with other is documented from 1225.
Another is different from the other:
another refers indefinitely to any further member of a series of indeterminate extent.
the other points to the remaining determinate member of a known series of two or more.
I don’t think “a whole nuther” belongs in the speech or writing of news announcers or journalists who have a responsibility to adhere to standard usage, but its informal use in conversation doesn’t pain my grammar nerve.
On the other hand, as blogger Dan Myers points out, if we use such constructions in jest, they will eventually come out of our mouths in earnest.
“What’s a Napron?” – an article of mine that appeared long ago in Highlights for Children.