they and them

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Apr 15 20:04:15 UTC 2005

On Apr 15, 2005, at 6:57 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> At 11:06 PM -0400 4/14/05, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

>> Could this be nothing more than a failure to place "they" and "them"
>> in
>> quotation marks? I.e., one plusible explanation is that "they and
>> them are" means no more than just 'the words "they" and "them" refer
>> to'. Compare "I is actually just the entity that inhabits this body
>> at this particular
>> time" or "He and she are actually you and me."
> Agreed

on reflection, i agree that this example probably involves mention,
rather than use, of "they" and "them", as in "they and them" 'people
referred to by the (distancing) pronouns "they" and them'' '.  i had
excluded quite a few of these in my first quick search of the ca. 5,550
examples google gave me, but at first glance this one seemed ok.

i'm not yet willing to concede on my "for they and them" examples, and
in any case there's still the indefinite extender "and them" ("anem",
as larry horn puts it) to account for.

i've now looked at the first 550 of the google cites.  there's some
tricky stuff in here.

first, one that looks like a pretty good example of indefinite extender
"and them":
  Ain't it just a pity Ma, we think we're  all so wise
  We walk through life from birth till  death, but walk with blinded eyes

  The rabbi prays for justice and the priest,  he prays for rain
  The sisters pray for silence while the  gypsys count their gain
  You and I and they and them, we're staring  at the walls
  Our candles burn at midnight, still there's  darkness in our halls ...'tItJustAPity.html

but there's another interpretation here, namely that "they and them" is
being used for reference to two or more third-person plural discourse
referents, with "they" used for the first and "them" for the others.
that is, maybe "they and them" is what you say instead of "they and
they".  something along these lines seems to be going on in this
account of the World Trade Organization demonstrations:
Wow, that police helicopter is right at eye level with my apartment.
Out my window it looks like the protestors in front of the Paramount
have locked arms around the busses in front. The busses have locked
them out of the Theatre, but they and them are also locking the
delegates out of the Theatre. ...

things are far from clear here, but one reading is that the "they"
refers to the buses (the most recently mentioned discourse referent of
the appropriate sort) and the "them" to the protestors (the previously
mentioned one).  here, "them" seems to code distal (vs. proximal) as
well as second (vs. first) use of a pronoun in a coordination.

more or less pure second-use coordinate "them" appears in the
following, where it's important that the underlined words are not just
pronouns, but *links*.
I suppose all this could come at the expense of my workout regime. I'd
like to say I've been working out regularly for years. But I actually
started working out regularly at the same time I started my new job and
this MBA program. It helps with the energy level and the stress level.
So I'm not willing to sacrifice time here, either.  _They_ say it's
important; and so do_ they_ and _them_.

here, "_they_ and _them_" appears where you might have expected "_they_
and _they_" (though i find that very clunky indeed; i'd rewrite to say
something like "and so do people _here_ and _here_", or "and so do
people _here_ and _there_").

along these lines, there are a few occurrences of "they, and them
alone" where i'd use "they, and they alone", as in:
And you believe that they, and them alone had some grudge worth three
or four lives? ". " I do not know, " snapped Nicholas. ...

finally, an example i forbear to analyze right now:
Nowhere else is there an issue about what I can and can not do with the
copyrighted material I purchase. If I put my CD into a player I'm not
told my player refuses to play the CD beause it is not the right player
or that I have exceeded the number of players to play it in. It's the
beginning of a slippery slope, where "they and them" are using
loopholes to undermine the rights people have. Purchasing from iTunes
is like giving them an inch and them taking a mile so I don't do it, I
don't purchase from Real either.

i'm still exploring this stuff.  the web searches are incredibly

i'll ask Grano about the examples he found in his searches.

arnold (zwicky at

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