Them bugs

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Japutra

Senior Member
Russian - Ukraine
Three of these watches were genuine tickers; the rest were only kickers. Hey? Why, empty caseswith one of them horny black bugs that fly around electric lightsin 'em. Them bugs kick off minutes and seconds industrious and beautiful.
It's again from "Cabbages and KLing" by O Henry.

Why "them bugs" and not "these bugs"?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi Japutra

    In a number of varieties of English "them" replaces "those".

    What's being reflected here is 'non-standard' speech:)
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Because the character is not speaking grammatically. The use of ungrammatical speech by a fictional character is usually an intentional choice by the author, and lets us know something about the character's education or social class.

    Is this never done in Russian literature?
     

    Japutra

    Senior Member
    Russian - Ukraine
    Because the character is not speaking grammatically. The use of ungrammatical speech by a fictional character is usually an intentional choice by the author, and lets us know something about the character's education or social class.

    Is this never done in Russian literature?
    Sometimes, yes. Right...

    But does this "them" mean Keogh skeaks ungrammatically or this is a kind of regional dialect? I am at a loss because just a couple of pages above Keough's speach was very (over-) eductaed and "high-style".
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Sometimes, yes. Right...

    But does this "them" mean Keogh skeaks ungrammatically or this is a kind of regional dialect? I am at a loss because just a couple of pages above Keough's speach was very (over-) eductaed and "high-style".
    "Them" used in this way is, as you say, a dialectic form - and often used to suggest the speaker isn't educated. *. I find it surprising that someone who used it had been speaking earlier in apparently educated style. I wonder if either one or the other is his true style and in the other discourse he was imitating the other style for effect.

    * Edit - It's only ungrammatical in the sense that it doesn't fit in with what is considered to be standard grammar, not that it is just nonsense
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sometimes, yes. Right...

    But does this "them" mean Keogh skeaks ungrammatically or this is a kind of regional dialect? I am at a loss because just a couple of pages above Keough's speach was very (over-) eductaed and "high-style".
    I'm no expert in O Henry, meaning I know nothing at all about the source apart from what I read HERE, but it seems to me that the person speaking here is Kirksy, whose manner of speech is entirely consistent with talking about "them bugs".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    From a quick look at the context, Keogh has a rather idiosyncratic way of speaking...

    (Intriguing that panj's source has Kirksy, mine has Keogh.

    I've never read any O Henry either.)
     

    Japutra

    Senior Member
    Russian - Ukraine
    A comment:

    Please note that the novel "Cabbages and Kings" was made up by O Henry of a series of his stories that have been previosly published on their own.

    The stories underwent some minor changes before their republication as the novel.

    So, Kirksyand Keogh are both correct but now I am more interested in Keogh.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    How very strange.
    Loob's link and mine apparently contain the same story, yet they begin very differently.
    AHA - explained by Japutra.

    That also, I suggest, explains any apparent incongruity of style.
    In one version of the story it is told by Kirksy, the engineer whose speech is full of this kind of peculiarity.
    In another it is told by Keogh, whose style is much less casual.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks, Japutra, that makes sense of the Kirksy/Keogh dichotomy.

    Without reading more deeply into this particular text, I can't tell why the speaker is using non-standard grammar. There could be a host of reasons, ranging from (1) it's his normal method of expressing himself; to (2) he's being deliberately "folksy"; and (3) he varies his language according to the person he's talking to.

    With probably (4)(5)(6) other reasons too!

    EDIT: panj may well be right (he usually is):)
     

    Japutra

    Senior Member
    Russian - Ukraine
    Another idea struck me all of a sudden... There is no hidden intent - O Henry maybe just did not rework the story deep enough when changing teh character.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Sometimes, yes. Right...

    But does this "them" mean Keogh speaks ungrammatically or this is a kind of regional dialect? I am at a loss because just a couple of pages above Keough's speech was very (over-) educated and "high-style".
    Though most of Kroegh's speech is grammatical, it is marked by an odd mixture of pretentious phrases and grammatical and other errors that reveal that he is not as educated as he pretends to be. He begins this paragraph with "Henry and me met at Texarkana ..." and earlier on he described Henry as "a gentleman, the same as you and me". Neither of these is standard English.

    In a later paragraph, Kroegh responds to his partner's suggestion that they sell phonographs to "the Latins" (meaning Latin-Americans) by quoting Julius Caesar's Latin, *"Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est". He then explains the quotation as meaning that they will need a lot of gall to pull off the scam they are planning.

    *All Gaul is divided into three parts.
     
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    zapateado

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Let us not forget the sound of them vs the sound of those. After all reading is to some extent sounding even when not out loud.
     
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