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In the English translation of an essay by Leon Trotsky that came out in Foreign Affairs, I read [emphasis added]:

Now it turns out that the world exchange is the source of all misfortunes and all dangers. Homeward ho! Back to the national hearth!

While its meaning is perfectly clear to me (“let’s go home!”), I cannot determine its origin. Has it something to do with a command to a horse?

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Sail ho! Land ho! Man ho! : en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ho –  Kris May 19 '13 at 9:39
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It has more to do with boats or ships. OED has

ho interjection

2.
a. An exclamation to attract attention.
b. After the name of a thing or place to which attention is called: used by boatmen, etc., to call attention to the place for which they are starting; hence, generally, with a sense of destination.

1593 G. Peele Famous Chron. King Edward the First sig. Kv, [stage direct.] Make a noise, Westward how. Queene. ‘Woman what noise is this I hear?’ Potters wife. ‘It is the Watermen that cals for passengers to goe Westward now.’
a1616 Shakespeare Twelfth Night (1623) iii. i. 133 Then Westward-hoe: Grace and good disposition attend your Ladyship.

Charles Kingsley wrote a novel Westward Ho! in 1855, which was rather popular and spawned a tourist boom to North Devon. So much so that a new village was built by entrepreneurs to service the visitors, which was called Westward Ho!, complete with the exclamation mark. Even though your article was written in 1934, it's possible that the popularity of the previous eighty years hadn't entirely worn off and was still influencing the translator.

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Thank you, you've been very clear. In your view, does it have an old-fashioned feel to it? –  Giorgiomastrò May 16 '13 at 15:16
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@Giorgiomastrò Yes. Kingsley's novel was actually set in Elizabethan times (just before the first OED citation). It's definitely dated; maybe even archaic. –  Andrew Leach May 16 '13 at 15:35
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Ship ho! is addressed to the rest of the crew, as opposed to Ship Ahoy which is addressed to the other ship. It is used occasionally still in sailing, particularly Land ho! which can be very welcome after a long voyage. –  TimLymington May 16 '13 at 16:11
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This shows that the phrase goes back as far as 1593, but doesn't answer the question of origin. It doesn't answer the question "why ho". –  MετάEd May 17 '13 at 22:29
    
James Kirke Paulding, "Westward Ho!" 1832; Charles Kingsley, "Westward Ho!" (British historical novel), 1855; at least one more. But why Ho!? en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ho –  Kris May 19 '13 at 9:32
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George Chapman, Ben Johnson, and John Marston, Eastward Hoe (London, 1605), quotes 3.3. "Eastward Ho" and "Westward Ho" were the traditional cries of watermen on the Thames in London.

Quoted from
Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project, 2009

Throughout the Tudor and early Stuart periods, the city of London endured a radical expansion and transformation, from the Medieval walled city it had been, toward the modern city it would become. Much of its physical expansion took place on the westward side of the city. (The phrases "westward ho!" and "eastward ho!" were the cries of the watermen who provided taxi service by boat on the River Thames.)[3] In their original play, Dekker and Webster took a broad-scale satirical view of contemporary events and developments in London, as it evolved "westward" into new, more egalitarian, more capitalistic and competitive forms.

The phrase "westward ho!" occurs in various other contexts in the English Renaissance era, including a use by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, III,i,134. The same phrase acquired future uses in other contexts, notably in the exploration of the American West.

Quoted from Wikipedia: Westward Ho (play)

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