Q: I hear people say things such as “We need to get hot dogs, buns, and that.” Where does this use of “and that” come from? Is it regional?
A: The phrase “and that” in your example (“We need to get hot dogs, buns, and that”) is another way of saying “and so forth” or “and so on.”
The usage dates back to the early 1800s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but it shows up “now chiefly in substandard speech or representations of it.”
The word “that” here is a shortening of “all that,” a much older usage that’s standard English today. The OED defines “all that” as “all that sort of thing; that and everything of the kind.”
The earliest written example for “all that” in the dictionary is from Jacob’s Well, an anonymous collection of sermons written around 1440 and edited in 1900 by Arthur Brandeis:
“Ȝitt for all þat, manye of þe iewys haddyn gret indignacyoun of hem.” (“Yet for all that, many of the Jews had great disdain for them.”)
The dictionary defines the full phrase “and all that” as “and so forth, et cetera,” and says it often suggests “a diffident or dismissive attitude on the part of the speaker.”
The first example of the expanded usage is from Mouse Grown a Rat, a 1702 political tract by the English journalist John Tutchin:
“My mighty Bulk does even elevate and surprize, and all that.” (The title is a play on the Aesop fable about the town rat and the country mouse.)
The shortened version of the expression that got your attention (“and that”) showed up in print a century later. The earliest example in the OED is from “The Cross Roads, or the Haymaker’s Story,” an 1821 poem by John Clare:
“For she was always fond and full of chat, / In passing harmless jokes ’bout beaus and that.” (We’ve expanded the citation.)
And here’s an example from William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair (1848): “Dob reads Latin like English, and French and that.”
The most recent written citation for the usage in the dictionary is from a May 19, 1977, issue of the Listener, a former BBC magazine: “They wait outside the pubs for them, and that.”
All the OED examples are from British sources, but the Dictionary of American Regional English has several 20th-century examples of the usage from the Midwest and Eastern US.
In the late 1960s, DARE field workers tape-recorded one example from an informant in Michigan (“Most of the time I’d be guiding for hunters that was from some of the bigger cities like Detroit and that”) and one example from Wisconsin (“That’s mostly like for fishing off piers and that”).
The dictionary also cites a written example for “and this” used like “and that” (from Appalachian Speech, a 1976 book by Walt Wolfram and Donna Christian):
“And there’s alot of them don’t like the mines and they’ll go somewhere and work at different jobs, construction working, factories and this.”
Finally, the OED includes two American variations on “all that,” dating from the 20th century: “and all that jazz” and “to be all that.”
The dictionary defines “and all that jazz” as “and all that sort of thing; and stuff like that; and so on; et cetera.” The earliest example is from the June 3, 1929, issue of the Washington Post:
“Combined with what threatekned [sic] to be merely another exploitation of the recklessness of modern youth there is a bit of high-power police stuff that partialy [sic] takes the curse off all that jazz.” (The bracketed insertions are in the citation.)
Oxford describes “to be all that” as US slang of African-American origin. The expression is defined as “to be great; to be particularly impressive or attractive,” but “often in negative contexts.”
The dictionary’s first example is from the July 3, 1989, issue of Jet: “There’s … all kinds of great singers that deserve a lot more credit than they’re getting right now. I don’t think I’m all that.”
Help support the Grammarphobia Blog with your donation.
And check out our books about the English language.