Monday, September 4th, 2017...3:19 pmmudds

You Saw Her Standing Where?

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“So how could I dance with another (Ooh)/When I saw her standing there”–I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles)

The second part of this lyrical phrase is known as a deixis. A deixis occurs when a set of words are used to describe an occurrence in a vague place. The phrase “when I saw her standing there” is a perfect example due to the following circumstances. The word “I” references a specific person, the singer. The word “her” refers to a specific person, the object of the singer’s affection, but doesn’t give a specific name. The word “there” references a location, but does not give anything more specific than that. Due to this, we the listeners are left to wonder where this mystery girl was seen.

This dissection of the song didn’t exactly change anything regarding my listening experience. For me to really re-think song lyrics, I typically look for double entendre’s in rap songs by artists such as Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Big Sean. However, this was a good exercise in putting analytical thinking to practical use.


  • Hi Sayahn. I’m happy you chose a Beatles song, and particularly this song. I’ve always been frustrated with songs like these. The ambiguity that is present when the artist uses a deixis causes me to wonder why an artist might make that choice. Are they protecting the intimacy of the situation? Or perhaps they are protecting their identity? Or maybe the identity of the other person involved? Most artists are regarded as greats if they reveal truths in their work. Maybe for future thought/exploration, one could think about the purpose or place of a deixis in a piece of music despite it creating confusion rather than revealing truths.

  •   Professor Seiler
    September 6th, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Hi Sayahn and Rachel–Sayahn, so glad you went with the Beatles after all!

    You know what? I wonder if in this instance, if we think beyond the perhaps frustrating imprecision of deixis, the weirdly specific but not specific effect of the device makes this song in fact more broadly appealing. That is, since “there” and “her” (etc) aren’t named, we can all imagine ourselves into this song.

    Room to explore the efficacy of the term a bit more, Sayahn, but good start to the blog!

  • I’m intrigued by your conclusion that the use of deixis here leaves listeners wondering about the specifics. I agree with Professor Seiler’s point that the lyrics provide enough detail to set a scene, but omit enough to remain applicable to the vastly differing experiences of individual listeners. And considering what I know about other Beatles songs from this period, the vagueness seems intentional. I am curious about how deixis could be employed in other mediums to create a similar effect. Besides the obvious benefit of relating to a wide base of consumers, I wonder what advantages might come from letting an audience answer certain questions in their own imaginations.

  • Sayahn, I love the song choice! I agree with Professor Seiler’s comment; the usage of deixis creates a ambiguity to the lyrics that I consider intentional. If The Beatles sang “I saw her standing in London”audiences elsewhere wouldn’t be able to relate as effortlessly. The simplicity of the lyric is typical of pop songs; they are detailing a universal experience that anyone can apply to their lives. While the deixis is less revealing of the artist’s experiences, it is definitely useful for appealing to more listeners.

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