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#1
Old 08-25-2012, 06:40 PM
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Frank Sinatra Says The Lady Is a Tramp; He's Insulting Her, Right?

My understanding of 50's-era slang is limited. When Frank sings "That's why the lady is a tramp," is he insulting her? To me it sounds like he's calling her a low-class broad.

Or does (did) tramp mean something else in this context?
#2
Old 08-25-2012, 06:44 PM
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A close reading of the lyrics suggests that what he means is, "That's why other people call the lady a tramp." As in, she won't conform to society's expectations, so everyone disapproves of her.

Last edited by Chef Troy; 08-25-2012 at 06:44 PM. Reason: to clarify a point
#3
Old 08-25-2012, 07:00 PM
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Chef Troy got it. Because the lady in question does such "low-class" things as go to the beach at Coney Island and eat dinner earlier than 8 p.m., that's obviously a sign that she's of weak moral fiber, right?

The sarcasm/irony/whatever doesn't really read in the song the way that most people sing it. But the lyrics themselves are much clearer.

I read somewhere that some singers would change the last line of the song to "this chick is a champ," just to make sure the audience got it.
#4
Old 08-25-2012, 07:18 PM
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Please note that the original, from the musical Babes in Arms, was sung in the first person by the "tramp" in question:

Quote:
I get too hungry, for dinner at eight
I like the theater, but never come late
I never bother, with people I hate
That's why the lady is a tramp
[Note the pronoun used here]

It's really a song of an independent thinker who doesn't really care what the hoity-toity upper class thinks of her.
#5
Old 08-25-2012, 07:33 PM
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Yes, although "tramp" is/was an insult word, it is intended ironically, and the song is actually saying that she is an admirable, free-spirited lady with a mind of her own.

Having said that, I will admit that at one time I somehow got the idea that she was a jet-setter who thought nothing of going all the way to Hungary to have dinner at 8.
#6
Old 08-25-2012, 09:23 PM
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The kicker (in the original version Sinatra bowdlerized it) is the ending:

I'm all alone when I lower my lamp.
That's why the lady is a tramp.

In other words, the upper-crustaceans who call her a tramp are all sleeping around and she's not.
#7
Old 08-25-2012, 09:47 PM
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This was the song I chose for my father/daughter dance at my wedding (didn't happen, long story, he's passed away). My dad was totally on board, the song sums me up pretty well.
#8
Old 08-26-2012, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
My understanding of 50's-era slang is limited. When Frank sings "That's why the lady is a tramp," is he insulting her? To me it sounds like he's calling her a low-class broad.

Or does (did) tramp mean something else in this context?
The song was written in the 1930s by Rodgers and Hart. As others have said, tramp is meant to be a free spirited person who doesn't conform to the narrow-mindedness of others
#9
Old 08-26-2012, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim's Son View Post
The song was written in the 1930s by Rodgers and Hart. As others have said, tramp is meant to be a free spirited person who doesn't conform to the narrow-mindedness of others
No it isn't, and that is not at all what others have been saying. "Tramp" was an insult (meaning something like "slut" or even "hooker" at its strongest), but the point of the song is that the lady in question, although at risk of being taken for a tramp by some, is not really one at all, but is in fact an admirable free-spirit.
#10
Old 08-26-2012, 11:23 AM
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It's obvious from Sinatra's delivery in the song that he means the description in an affectionate way. He's saying: "She's got no airs and graces about her, she's down to earth - that may offend the snobs, but I think she's great."
#11
Old 08-26-2012, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
No it isn't, and that is not at all what others have been saying. "Tramp" was an insult (meaning something like "slut" or even "hooker" at its strongest), but the point of the song is that the lady in question, although at risk of being taken for a tramp by some, is not really one at all, but is in fact an admirable free-spirit.

Doesn't it mean both, though? I mean what about Lady and the Tramp? I doubt Disney would have chosen a name meaning whore.
#12
Old 08-26-2012, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cayuga View Post
The kicker (in the original version — Sinatra bowdlerized it) is the ending:

I'm all alone when I lower my lamp.
That's why the lady is a tramp.

In other words, the upper-crustaceans who call her a tramp are all sleeping around and she's not.
That line is like the joke about the difference between a whore and a bitch.
A whore sleeps with everybody.
A bitch sleeps with everybody but you.
In the song the guy is pissed because she isn't sleeping with him. So he calls her a tramp.
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#13
Old 08-26-2012, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
Doesn't it mean both, though? I mean what about Lady and the Tramp? I doubt Disney would have chosen a name meaning whore.
In that case, the tramp is a male - so they're saying a hobo, or probably more correctly in that case, homeless.

Last edited by Folacin; 08-26-2012 at 11:49 AM.
#14
Old 08-26-2012, 11:56 AM
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The song actually dates to 1937, appearing in Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms. Exactly when did Sinatra record his version? Because I'm wondering if he was capitalizing on the animated film Lady and the Tramp, which came out in 1955.
#15
Old 08-26-2012, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
The song actually dates to 1937, appearing in Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms. Exactly when did Sinatra record his version? Because I'm wondering if he was capitalizing on the animated film Lady and the Tramp, which came out in 1955.
1956
#16
Old 08-26-2012, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
The song actually dates to 1937, appearing in Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms. Exactly when did Sinatra record his version? Because I'm wondering if he was capitalizing on the animated film Lady and the Tramp, which came out in 1955.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hajario View Post
Well, there ya go.
#17
Old 08-26-2012, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
Doesn't it mean both, though? I mean what about Lady and the Tramp? I doubt Disney would have chosen a name meaning whore.
From Merriam-Webster:

Quote:
tramp noun

a : vagrant 1a
b : a foot traveler
c : a woman of loose morals; specifically : prostitute
It's very clear from the context that definition c is what's meant in the song, but it's intended ironically. Others perceive the woman as being a tramp because she doesn't conform to high-class behavior, but she's really not.

In the Disney movie, the Tramp is a male stray, and definition a is clearly meant.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
That line is like the joke about the difference between a whore and a bitch.
A whore sleeps with everybody.
A bitch sleeps with everybody but you.
In the song the guy is pissed because she isn't sleeping with him. So he calls her a tramp.
Have you even listened to the song? That line doesn't appear in the Sinatra version. It's clear that the singer admires and feels affection for the lady in question. There's no indication that he isn't sleeping with her.

In the original version, where that lyric appears, it's sung by the woman herself.

Last edited by Colibri; 08-26-2012 at 12:42 PM.
#18
Old 08-26-2012, 12:48 PM
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Yes, then Disney Tramp is clearly not even close to any other sort of tramp that might be suggested by the song. But the movie was popular, and I can just see Ol' Blue eyes sitting there thinking: "Hey, the movie title brings to mind that song. I think I'll sing it anew."
#19
Old 08-26-2012, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Terminus Est View Post
Please note that the original, from the musical Babes in Arms, was sung in the first person by the "tramp" in question:
In the Great Depression era original, it refers explicitly to the "hobo/vagrant" meaning in several places.

Quote:
I've wined and dined on Mulligan stew
And never wished for turkey
As I hitched and hiked and grifted, too,
From Maine to Albuquerque.

....

But social circles spin too fast for me.
My Hobohemia is the place to be.

....

I like to hang my hat where I please.
Sail with the breeze.
No dough-heigh-ho!
I love La Guardia and think he's a champ.
That' s why the lady is a tramp.
The character, Bunny Byron is described this way:

Quote:
BUNNY BYRON - A mousy lady who is pushed around by Fleming but very popular with the kids and secretly harbours ambitions to act and generally 'let rip'.
In this version, it seems that the singer thinks she is looked down on mainly for being poor.

In the Sinatra version, however, I think the "loose woman" meaning is what's implied.
#20
Old 08-27-2012, 08:49 AM
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She should just get a lower back tattoo and end the speculation.
#21
Old 08-27-2012, 09:30 AM
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I've only heard the Sinatra version two or three times in my life. Never was a Frankie fan.

The preferred recording in my house was by Lena Horne. And nobody calls that classy lady a tramp.
#22
Old 08-27-2012, 10:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
That line is like the joke about the difference between a whore and a bitch.
A whore sleeps with everybody.
A bitch sleeps with everybody but you.
In the song the guy is pissed because she isn't sleeping with him. So he calls her a tramp.



"I like the free fresh wind in my hair. Life without care."
#23
Old 08-27-2012, 10:50 AM
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Yeah, the lady is a tramp because she lives her life on her own terms and doesn't conform to social norms. He's being ironic in calling her a tramp.
#24
Old 08-27-2012, 11:28 AM
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In the context of the times (things are looser now) she's a high-class dame who doesn't conform to her 'high-class' friends, she does her own thing, and they see her as living below their expectations, doing things the common hoi polloi do. They have dinner at Le Cirque at 9 p.m. - she would rather hit up the diner at 5 p.m., being too hungry to wait till 9 p.m., just to be seen by society in a high-falutin' restaurant. (I was acquainted with a ridiculously rich woman who actually flew to Paris for a couture gown every year, and she bought all her everyday clothes at Sears.) Low-class = tramp! Inverse snobbery.
#25
Old 09-08-2012, 02:05 PM
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In the '37 "Babes In Arms", the singer in question is, in fact, a hobo--she's hitchhiking/hopping on trains/etc to get to California.

(mostly copied from earlier posts of mine)

In BABES IN ARMS the song refers to some specific stuff stuff from the show--it wasn't really intended as a stand-alone song, and it was written to be sung by a woman about herself in first person ("I hate California/It's cold and it's damp..."). Also, it was written in ~1934.

The female character who sings the song about herself ("Billie") is a wanna-be actress who's hitchhiked across the country to go to Hollywood where she's sure she'll be a big star who's...well, a plot synopsis will make it (a bit) clearer.

She meets up with Val, a philosophy student who's parents are vaudevillians and they've decided to send Val to a "work farm" while they (the parents) go on the road (all the other unemployed kids are being sent there too) but the kids say that they can survive on their own by putting on a show to raise money so they won't have to go/ Billie meanders into town and gets all caught up in the over-complicated plot.

Because Val has punched out a racist and the shows' not gonna go on they're all gonna be sent to the work farm after all and she's gonna be sent to the work farm too but ...oh hell, the plot gets convoluted as only a '30s era screwball comedy musical can get with all sorts of stuff about a French aviator, etc.

Just before the song, Val has punched out a racist (during the show), causing it to fail. A party's being thrown for the main characters before they get sent off to the "work farm" (apparently a charming combination of summer camp and chain gang) and as Val goes off to get some punch 'n' cookies, Billie wonders if she'll ever fit in with the other kids (who may have been snotty to her) and considers going back on the road: She thinks it's better than being sent to a "work farm" (I agree, btw), and sings the song "The Lady Is A Tramp" to justify her leaving and finishing her journey to Hollywood

Anyway, in the (rarely sung) intro to the song, Billie sings:
I've wined and dined on Mulligan Stew, and never wished for turkey
As I hitched and hiked and grifted too, from Maine to Albuquerque
Alas, I missed the Beaux Arts Ball, and what is twice as sad
I was never at a party where they honored Noel Cad (Coward)
But social circles spin too fast for me
My "hobo-hemia" is the place to be.

I get too tired for dinner at eight
...etc

Val hears her singing/talking about this and says (something like ) "What, you're gonna run out on us at a time like this?"

Billie, stung by this, replies (again, from memory) "Run out? What kinda girl do you think I am? I'll stick it out! We'll think of somethin'."

Val replies (more or less) "You're one of the good ones. The tramp is a lady"

Billie says something like "No, you've got that backwards..." and bursts into a reprise of "The Lady Is A Tramp"

...folks went to London and left me behind
I missed the crowning, Queen Mary didn't mind
Won't play Scarlett in Gone with the "Wynde"
That's why the lady is a tramp
I like to hang my hat where I please
Sail with the breeze
No dough! Hey-ho!
I still like Roosevelt, and think he's a champ
That's why the lady is a tramp


It's clear that it means both "I'm proud to be 'uncultured'--since 'culture means dishing the dirt with the rest of the girls and "I actually go to the theater to watch the plays and I never come late just so I can be seen. AND there's a play on the word, since she's hitchhiking across the country, so she's a tramp/hobo.

Fenris
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