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I've seen a lot of times the pronoun them used like an article. For example, in the title of the Delta Rhythm Boys Them bones, or in the first sentence of "Money for nothing":

Now look at them yo-yo's, that's the way you do it.

I know that it's not "proper English" (i.e., not something you'll use in a serious writing), but I'd like to know when it's commonly used, and why. Is there any difference between using it and using the?

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Save them britches! –  RiMMER Jun 17 '11 at 15:21
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Obviously there will be some benighted souls who don't even realise that using "them" in this way is non-standard/grammatically incorrect. Most of us know this perfectly well, and many of us deliberately say it sometimes in informal contexts largely for the effect. –  FumbleFingers Jun 17 '11 at 18:00
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's a non-standard
(although perfectly valid within the context of a valid personal and location based free choice in the subset of English which one chooses to consider valid within one's own frame of reference)
use of 'those' - I think it's also an American dialect/regional variation

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Them Suth'ners sure do talk funny! –  MT_Head Jun 17 '11 at 16:15
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Of note, those isn't an article. It is a pronoun. "Them" is also used as "them's the breaks, kid" which also points toward those. +1 –  MrHen Jun 17 '11 at 18:01
    
@MT_Head: Dat'd be Dem Suth'ners, I think (though if we had them in the UK they'd probably be Suvnas). –  FumbleFingers Jun 17 '11 at 18:03
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@MrHen: If you want to get really technical, those is a demonstrative (while the is an article), and it can be used as a determiner or a pronoun — in the case of this question, we'd be comparing the determiner use of those. –  Kosmonaut Jun 17 '11 at 19:59
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I have to say I don't love the characterization of them as a "misuse" of another determiner, because it carries the implication that the person does it by accident or because they don't know better. It's a nonstandard use to be sure, and it is something to be avoided if one wishes to use Standard English, but I don't think its use is inappropriate per se within those dialects/registers where we see it. –  Kosmonaut Jun 17 '11 at 20:03
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To me it would seem to be a form of vulgar argot of the language, much as the use of y'all is seen to be by many. These phrases certainly won't be adopted into standard English via anything less than overwhelming acceptance. But we understand the meaning of the term they used as an article much as we understand the use of "y'all come back now, y'hear" as a reasonable phrase. We just assume that its non-standard, or, less flatteringly, gutter-speak (apologies to Sting and Dire Straits).

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In African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) them often replaces those, or less often, the article the. Due to hip-hop culture having developed with heavy African-American influence, rap lyrics are often in AAVE.

Although possibly unrelated, them is also used in this way in Appalachian English.

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