Who is the gentleman from Rome?
November 27, 2008 8:31 AM   Subscribe

What does this lyric from Irving Berlin's song "Sisters" mean?

The following lines from the song "Sisters" bother me:

Caring, sharing
Every little thing that we are wearing
When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome
She wore the dress, and I stayed home

It's the last two lines that I can't figure. I'm guessing the "gentleman from Rome" is a date, and they're either saying that they only own one dress between them, or perhaps that they fooled the date into thinking that one was the other? Or maybe I'm overthinking it and it just means "One of us went on a date and the other didn't"?

Is there some significance to the gentleman from Rome, or is it just that "Rome" rhymes with "home"? What is "the dress"? The song is from 1954, so it seems unlikely that they only have one dress. Is there some fifties cultural context that I'm missing?
posted by lore to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
The Pope?
posted by zippy at 8:39 AM on November 27, 2008

I've always thought it meant that they just have one really nice dress, and since they are "such devoted sisters" they share it.
1954 isn't all that long after the war, when they had clothes rationing, so maybe people remembered having to do similar sorts of things?

As for the gentleman from Rome, I don't know if there's a specific significance, but I think you're right that he's a date.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:40 AM on November 27, 2008

I think the "gentleman from Rome" just implies a dashing, handsome date. "The dress" is the dress--you know, the really great dress that they both look hot in.
posted by HotToddy at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2008

Yup, I've always interpreted it HotToddy's way.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2008

certain gentleman from rome

Is that the Pope?
posted by Rubbstone at 9:39 AM on November 27, 2008

The first papal visit to the United States didn't occur until 1965, well after 'Sisters' was written. I don't think it's a song about primping for the pontiff (though that would be delightful).
posted by ShameSpiral at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2008

It's right there in the lyrics: "Caring, sharing / Every little thing that we are wearing" + "She wore the dress, and I stayed home"

Rome was a good rhyme (if he started with someone staying home) and it made the date sound like a hot Italian guy, hot enough to be worth getting out the dress, but he probably could have had some other characteristic if the rhyme had called for it.
posted by pracowity at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

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