I have always wondered about a use of the pronoun "them" that is characteristic of many Texans, and would like to know if it has been documented by linguists and, perhaps, had its origins explained.
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and spent my first 17 years there. This use of "them" always sounded strange to me, even though I was a native, perhaps because it wasn't something I heard in my family. I did hear it, however, from many neighborhood children and my school friends, as well as from several of my parents' friends.
Here are a couple of examples of this use of "them":
- "I just saw Bob and them."
- "How are Bob and them?"
Of course #2 sounds strange, because the nominative case of the pronoun, "they", is the correct choice for "How are..."
But this is not what makes the expression so different.
"Them", as in both cases here, is often (not always) used in Texas to refer to one person, irrespective of gender. For example:
"I just saw Bob and them." "Are they coming?" "Yes, Bob is coming at 5:00, and Jane will be along about an hour later."
Apparently Texans aren't the only people to use "them" in these and other like expressions. I have searched on the Internet, and the search turned up plenty of sites that refer to the expression "How's mom and them" or close variants:
Your Dictionary - mom-and-them, a Southern expression that means "family"; Urban Dictionary - your mom and the rest of your family; Wiktionary - a Southern US expression that means "family"; Many New Orleans sites, including NewOrleans.com - "ya mom'n'em", meaning your immediate family.
So evidently, the use of the expression goes far beyond Texas in the southern United States. But nowhere on the Internet can I find a source that documents this particular type of use of "them" to describe only one person, irrespective of gender. (Also, in Texas, it does not always apply to family.)
Is there an etymology of this usage? Has anyone seen it documented anywhere?