Monday, March 31, 2014

What’s That Rumbling?

A recent 1920s song played on Radio Dismuke extolled the joys of romance in that part of some older cars that is known as a rumble seat.  The lyrics went:
            Get her in a rumble seat.
            Girlies never grumble,
            Even though they stumble,
            Getting in a rumble seat.
            She can't resist you in your little runabout.
            She's got to hug you tight for fear she'll bounce right out.
            You won't have to worry
            If you only hurry.
            Get her in a rumble seat!
For those too young to remember, a rumble seat is pull-out seat at the rear of some vehicles that typically is large enough only for two passengers (tightly squeezed in). Such a seat first appeared on the 1908 Packard, which appropriately became known as the “Honeymoon Car.” In the 1920s the rumble seat was a popular feature of the Ford Model A.
The origin of the word came from horse-drawn carriages, which had a small folding seat attached to the back end for footmen to ride on.  It became known by 1801 as a “rumbler,” later simply a “rumble,” and then a “rumble seat,” because of the noise heard and the motion felt directly over the wheels.

Rumble, meaning “to make a deep, heavy, continuous sound, or to move with a rolling, thundering sound,” is a late fourteenth-century word, originating in the imitative Middle Dutch rommelen, Middle High German rummeln, and ultimately in Old Norse rymja (“to shout or roar”).   

In the 1940s rumble came to be used as a word for street gang fights, from its subsidiary meaning of “create disorder and confusion.”

(Radio Dismuke, by the way, is an online streaming station that plays only original recordings of the marvelous music of the 1920s and 1930s.)

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou does not like to ride in rumble seats, since all the  bouncing invariably spills his drink.

                        I hate to ride the rumble seat,
                        It won’t go very fast.
                        Each time my car goes down the street,
                        The rumble gets there last.

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