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Posted by ESC on November 05, 2000

In Reply to: them thar hills posted by James Briggs on November 05, 2000

: : Hi!
: : Would anybody know who first said "There is gold in them thar hills"? And, by the way, what does "thar" stand for? "there"?
: : I've looked in many dictionaries, to no avail...
: : Thanks for your answers,
: : Philippe

: Don't know who first said this, but my guess is that it comes from early Western films and, as such, was never used in the 'real' West.

: As for 'thar' - you're right; it means 'there' and is part of a badly composed sentence. It's not used in usual spoken English. Correctly 'them thar' should be 'those', but it doesn't have the same ring!!

It's an Appalachian Mountains thing. Mr. Mencken explains it in the following paragraphs. I do heartily object to the term "vulgar American," however.

"Of demonstrative pronouns, there are but two in Standard English, 'this' and 'that,' with their plurals forms, 'these' and 'those.' To 'them' vulgar American adds a third plural, 'them,' which is also the personal pronoun of the third person, objective case. (Footnote: It occurs, of course, in other dialects of English, but by no means in all.) In addition it has adopted certain adverbial pronouns, 'this-here,' 'these-here,' 'that-there,' those-there' and 'them-there,' and set up inflections of the original demonstratives by analogy with 'mine,' 'hism,' and 'yourn,' to wit, 'thisn,' 'thesen,' 'tharn,' and 'thosen.'.

'This-here, 'these-here, 'those-there,' 'that-there' and 'THEM-THERE' (emphasis mine) are plainly combinations of pronouns and adverbs, and their function is to support the distinction between proximity, as embodied in 'this' and 'these,' and remoteness, as embodied in 'that,' 'those' and 'them'."
"The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States" by H.L. Mencken (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1963).

So "there's gold in them-there hills," as oppose to nearby hills. Makes perfect sense to me. I haven't found who said the phrase first. For some reason it strikes me as a phrase a newspaper headline writer or editorial cartoonist would come up with.

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