I'm fond of old especially folk songs, but as a foreigner I often have troubles interpreting some phrases. Here is one from Wayfaring stranger:

I'm going there to see my father
I'm going there no more to roam
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home

Does "going over" here mean "going to", i.e. approaching to some goal? I can't find some dictionary article which can prove this - though I've seen some about "go over to smth" with similar sense.

Or can this be some archaic, or dialect-specific (Appalachian?) usage, but not "normal" for contemporary / everyday language?

Thanks in advance for guiding me!

  • The otherwise archaic style of a-going, a-walking, a-cooking, indeed a-verb, remains in some UK dialects of English. It was regularly used by my Norfolk grandparents, less by my parents' generation. But one can still hear it today. – WS2 Jan 26 '15 at 15:39
  • It's also common in some rural dialects in the USA. It's certainly nonstandard. – John Lawler Jan 26 '15 at 16:03
  • 1
    "Going over Jordan" means dying (and presumably going to heaven). – Greg Lee Jan 26 '15 at 16:11
  • Yes, the sense of this chorus (and the song as whole) is clear enough... I'm only curious about this "go over" - especially because while I can understand "going over Jordan" - I can't understand "going over home". That is which puzzles. – Rodion Gorkovenko Jan 27 '15 at 11:24
  • It should be remarked that the entire verse refers to dying: Going see one's father, no more roaming, crossing over Jordan, and going home are all idioms for dying and going to heaven. – Hot Licks Sep 16 '16 at 20:24

Yes, it's an old form of saying "going to" (also used where today we might just say "going").

Examples of usage:

"In my part of Brooklyn, we always said we were going "over New York" (never, as people in Queens said, "to the City")" (Robert Snyder, Transit Talk: New York's Bus and Subway Workers Tell Their Stories, 1997)

"i had to pay $17 to park for a hour inside the garage couldn't find parking on street to much of a hassle to continue going over Philadelphia" (RateMDs review, April 22, 2015)

"A man will be coming over town and he will say, 'You going over town, Bob?' Whether I am going over town or not I always say yes" (Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company Field Notes, 1918)

"'Where on earth are you going?' 'Over home,' said Eunice." (Lucy Maude Montgomery, Avonlea Chronicles, 1912)

"I am going over home directly after breakfast to give out meal and corn." (Send Me a Pair of Old Boots & Kiss My Little Girls: The Civil War Letters of Richard and Mary Watkins, 1861-1865, Jeff Toalson, ed.)

Note that the penultimate quote is by a Canadian, and the last was from a set of letters between a Virginia couple, so this usage apparently extended at least all up and down the eastern side of North America. Also, if that internet doctor review is not a typo of some sort, it may still be in current usage among some individuals/in some areas.

As for "going over home" in this particular sense, I believe it is the (not uncommon) practice of equating the afterlife and specifically "heaven" with "home". For comparison:

"In Remembrance of W.L. Clifton. . . . He prayed to see me, his only sister, before he died. I arrived there on Wednesday before he passed away Sunday. He said all was ready, he was only going over home." (People and Things from the Walker County, Alabama Jasper Mountain Eagle (1910 - 1913), Robin Sterling, ed.)

| improve this answer | |
  • Though the question is a duplicate, this answer contains good references of examples unlike the one there. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 16 '16 at 19:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.