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Meaning of the phrase, "look away".

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Mar 31, 2020 - 11:06:29 AM
474 posts since 2/21/2005

In Daniel Emmett's song Dixie, there is a phrase, "look away, Dixieland". It also occurs in some versions of the song, Shenandoah; "look away, you rollin' river". It must have had some meaning in the 19th century that hasn't carried over into modern usage. Anybody have a clue?

Mar 31, 2020 - 11:21:39 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

24265 posts since 8/3/2003

How about this for a definition?

look away - avert one's gaze; "She looked away when the nurse pricked her arm with the needle" look - perceive with attention; direct one's gaze towards; "She looked over the expanse of land"; "Look at your child!"; "Look--a deer in the backyard!" Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection

Mar 31, 2020 - 12:05:37 PM

9663 posts since 2/22/2007

But how does a river or a region "look away"? Or could it mean for people from afar to look TOWARDS that river or region? To look away from where you are back to something else?

Mar 31, 2020 - 12:30:49 PM
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76 posts since 4/8/2019

The 19th century left us a wealth of slang and idioms that seem to make no sense today. I guess you had to be there. There are dictionaries of 19th-century slang terms and idioms online, and I suppose you could spend a few sequestered days perusing this topic.

The American 19th century was the age of Mark Twain, who had his clever way with words, but it was a time of less irony in general. I would say the phrase "look away" in the context of Emmett's "Dixie's Land" is not all that obscure. It just means "look toward" as in "remember with affection."

As an aside, I just finished a good biography of Stephen Foster a few months ago, Doo-dah!: Stephen Foster And The Rise Of American Popular Culture, by Ken Emerson. It was equally charming and amusing to learn that Foster's first band was called "Five Nice Young Men."

Mar 31, 2020 - 12:34:48 PM
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76 posts since 4/8/2019

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

But how does a river or a region "look away"? Or could it mean for people from afar to look TOWARDS that river or region? To look away from where you are back to something else?


The lyric actually suggests that the singer or audience "look away" toward the river or region, meaning "fondly recall."

Mar 31, 2020 - 1:22:14 PM

474 posts since 2/21/2005

That’s right. Those are the meanings that we’re familiar with. I thought there must have been some other obsolete meaning that has been lost to us because the current meanings make no sense to me in the context of those songs.

Mar 31, 2020 - 1:25:26 PM

474 posts since 2/21/2005

Wow, these are all great suggestions.

Mar 31, 2020 - 7:29:19 PM

Owen

Canada

5554 posts since 6/5/2011

....from 'way out beyond the "left field" fence:  ...imagine? ...look with the mind's eye?

Apr 1, 2020 - 5:37:43 AM
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mander

USA

4214 posts since 10/7/2007

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