Rednex Cotton Eye Joe Fixed
A number of possible meanings of the term "cotton-eyed" have been proposed. The phrase may refer to: being drunk on moonshine, or having been blinded by drinking wood alcohol, turning the eyes milky white; a black person with very light blue eyes; miners covered in dirt with the exception of their white eyes; someone whose eyes were milky white from bacterial infections of trachoma or syphilis, cataracts or glaucoma; or the contrast of dark skin tone around white eyeballs in black people. Another theory is that the phrase "cotton eyed" is the process of which a person is enucleated and the eyeball is replaced with a cotton ball due to lack of medical equipment and surgical professionals.
Rednex Cotton Eye Joe
More sobering points of view have pointed out the connection between cotton and the history of American slavery, suggesting that the phrase may have something to do with enslaved persons being forced to pick cotton or even flee from abusive owners.
Some theories say Cotton Eye Joe was ill with some disease that made his eyes look milky white. Others state that he replaced his eyeball with a cotton ball because of inadequate medical equipment. Of course, none of these theories managed to prove their claims to be valid throughout the years.
Even his nickname -- "cotton-eyed" -- contains a variety of possible meanings. According to an Internet folk song database and various anthologies, Joe could have cataracts, trachoma, or syphilis. He could've been blinded by homemade alcohol. The whites of his eyes could have simply been prominent on his face, especially in contrast with dark skin. Joe's eyes are as enigmatic as the rest of him.
There's a fairly good argument to be made that at least the modern dance song is about a dude spreading sexually transmitted disease, which is why all the women "ran away so nobody would know." In some versions of the folk song, too, the narrator's girlfriend isn't "carried off" to Tennessee but "runs off." According to urban legend, "cotton" is a reference to the swabs used to test for such infections, but it couldn't have been the original writer's intention, as such swabs didn't exist back then. It's entirely possible that it's a double entendre applied by the Rednex, though.
Similarly, some simply contrast the whiteness of the eyes and the darkness of his skin (the eyes look like cotton on his head). The final probable interpretation is that Joe is simply drunk. This would explain his crossed eyes and strange teeth. 041b061a72