A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 19, 2005
Bus (slang term for ambulance)
"Bus" is a slang term for "ambulance" that dates to before World War I.

(Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Vol. I A-G)
bus n.
(...)
2. an automobile or other motor vehicle.
1914 T.A. Dorgan, in Zwilling TAD Lexicon 22: A friend of mine just bought a new car. A flivver...Thats like mine - some bus.
1916 W.J. Robinson At Front 121: The old 'bus made the most of what she had.
1917 Imbrie War Ambulance 115: A car was a "buss."
1917 in Dos Passos 14th Chronicle 92: Our ambulance however is simply peppered with holes - how the old bus holds together is more than I can make out.

(Google Groups)
Susan Dec 22 2002, 3:10 pm
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: Steve & Susan
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002 14:10:16 -0600
Local: Sun,Dec 22 2002 3:10 pm
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

'Blance,
'Bamblance
(used in Jersey City, NJ along with "bus")

"Bus" is a New York City expression and has been so for many years. It's not a TV invention. Say it to any cop, firefighter or EMS worker in NYC and they'll know exactly what you mean.

In Missouri, ALS ambulances can be referred to as "LSV's" or life
support vehicles.

My old FD (for a brief time as an inside joke) referred to ambulances as "meat cars." (A firefighter with a speech impediment was really saying "police car" and the patient heard "meat car.").

Steve
(forever on the bus)

Aussie Medic Dec 22 2002, 5:09 pm
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: "Aussie Medic" -
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002 22:09:36 GMT
Local: Sun,Dec 22 2002 5:09 pm
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

forgot "Big White Taxi" (see BRT for FF's) for the number of people who
treat us as a taxi service.....

John Noble Dec 22 2002, 6:21 pm
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: "John Noble" -
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002 23:20:14 GMT
Local: Sun,Dec 22 2002 6:20 pm
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

I think in Los Angeles they call them "RA" for Rescue Ambulance.

Steve & Susan Dec 23 2002, 12:36 am
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: Steve & Susan
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002 23:36:06 -0600
Local: Mon,Dec 23 2002 12:36 am
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

On Sun, 22 Dec 2002 23:27:37 -0500, Buff5200 wrote:
>Red Ball Express

Reminded me of a few more...

Tac-Z (sounds like Taxi - for Tactical paramedic unit "10 Zebra" old NYC*EMS Manhattan Boro Cmd,)

Orange & White Bus Company

Steve

Leigh Darnall Dec 23 2002, 8:53 am
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: Leigh Darnall
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 07:54:08 -0600
Local: Mon,Dec 23 2002 8:54 am
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

Tennessee slang:

Med unit, unit, truck, rig or box. The last is used in a fairly
desperate plea - "Get me off the box NOW. I can't take it anymore" type stuff.

"Bus" must be a Yankee thing- I'd never heard it until Third Watch
happened to TV.

Oh, yeah, and "bumbolance." A bit of nonsense that drives my partner crazy.
--
Leigh Darnall
Itinerant Paramedic
Firefighter Wannabe
As wrong as a soup sandwich.

BCarney1123 Dec 23 2002, 11:21 pm
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: (BCarney1123)
Date: 24 Dec 2002 04:20:49 GMT
Local: Mon,Dec 23 2002 11:20 pm
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

>"Bus" must be a Yankee thing- I'd never heard it until Third Watch
>happened to TV.

More like a NYC area thing. Around here if you say bus everyone knows your're talking about the ambulance. There are two stories I've heard for this term.

The most obvious one is the reference to picking up multiple people. Back in the days before the letters E-M-S meant anything it was not unheard of to be so busy that the "buses" would respond incident to incident picking up people on the way to the hospital.

Another reference is to the contract NYC had several years ago with the Grumann Corporation. Grumann was awarded a large contract to provide the City with Transit buses. Grumann also used to make ambulances and NYC EMS also used Grumann ambulances. Hence the "Bus" reference. We had two here in New Brunswick and they wouldn't die.

I'm sure some of our collegues from NYC could set the record straight if I'm mistaken.

Brian
New Brunswick, NJ

GaryS Dec 24 2002, 12:26 am
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From:
Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 05:26:44 GMT
Local: Tues,Dec 24 2002 12:26 am
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

On 24 Dec 2002 04:20:49 GMT, (BCarney1123) wrote:
> Another reference is to the contract NYC had several years ago with the Grumann
> Corporation. Grumann was awarded a large contract to provide the City with
> Transit buses. Grumann also used to make ambulances and NYC EMS also used
> Grumann ambulances. Hence the "Bus" reference. We had two here in New Brunswick
> and they wouldn't die.

That's the story that I've heard a number of times from people from NYC, so there might be some truth to it. However, Bob's story would seem to contradict that since it predates NYC's purchase of the Grumman ambulances by several years.

As for the durability, during WW II Navy pilots referred to the company as the "Grumman Iron Works" because the planes were so rugged and would keep flying with incredible damage.

Gary

danny burstein Dec 25 2002, 2:22 pm
Newsgroups: misc.emerg-services
From: danny burstein
Date: Wed, 25 Dec 2002 19:22:48 +0000 (UTC)
Local: Wed,Dec 25 2002 2:22 pm
Subject: Re: Slang for Ambulance

In "John Filangeri" writes:
>It's not from the Grummans. The term predates them by several decades at
>least. And, the Grummans were truck chassis modulars (type I). Nothing like
>a bus. I would imagine it came from the old "bread truck" (similar to
>trucks used to deliver fresh bread every morning to local groceries)
>ambulances. They looked quite a bit like a sawed-off bus.

I have been told by some of the fossilized dinosaurs in NYC's EMS group (you know, the folk who were around back when "DIT" was a checkoff box on the ambulance call reports) that the term (which predated my arrival in the system) comes from the old Dep't of Hospital days.

Way back then a significant amount of patient transport was done by multi-passenger vehicles, kind of like the access-a-ride units now in use for the handicapped. So yes, patients would wait for the (medical) "bus" as it made its rounds.

danny " however, these same people have told me about the snipe hunts and treating injuries from cow tipping and recovering bodies after seregators got to them, so I'm not sure how much to trust them " burstein

Posted by Barry Popik
Names/Phrases • (4) Comments • Sunday, June 19, 2005 • Permalink


Ambulances up there are called “fatty wagons” referencing the fact the patients seem to be getting bigger and bigger with no end in sight.

Posted by Meghan  on  06/04  at  01:52 PM

In Romania we call it the microwave oven in the summer and sometimes the Dog for the rest of the year.

Posted by Addiction  on  06/12  at  10:37 AM

The term “Bus” is part of our New York City ambulance heritage. Most of those with some knowledge of the term who have posted comments here already are relating some of the myths or half logical deductions of its origins.

When I came on the job (another NY term)in the 70’s, I too asked why they were called buses. My partner, with some 30 years experience, told me to go stand in front of the bus and look at it. We were still in the ambulances we called “Bread Boxes”. They were step vans based on the Bread delivery trucks popular in the 60’s,with a single front door, and a split windshield that resembled the Transit Authority buses of the 40’s,50’s and 60’s.
He was wrong.

Another myth is they are called buses because of the first modular Grumman ambulances the service purchased in 1974. They are not.  Most of the NYC buses in the 50’s and 60’s were General Motors, not Grummans.

Grumman did not enter the transit bus business until 1978 when they purchased the Flxible Company, and NYC did not purchase a Grumman Flxible until 1980- 6 years AFTER the first Grumman Ambulance was purchased. The entire transit purchase was found to be defective and the city sued until the entire fleet purchase was returned.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_models_used_in_New_York_City_Transit_and_MTA_Bus

The first reliable reference I can find for the use of Bus as an ambulance in NYC dates back to 1903…long before GM, or Grumman. The mode of ambulance propulsion had 4 legs and ate hay.

If you read the autobiography of Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer- “Bowery to Bellevue, The story of New York’s First Woman Ambulance Surgeon”, you will find it was a common reference to the horse drawn carriage ambulance of the day. How it came into existence is still a mystery. But it is a tradition that has survived more than a century. It is not deserving of disdain, but rather a celebration of tradition. It honors those that came before.

Posted by Mark Peck  on  06/30  at  12:57 AM

I know that this bus or ambulance were custom built wagons that can transport injured persons to one place or another. This vehicle has been modified. And lots of parts and accessories were added to make the vehicle reliable.

Posted by Weatherstripping  on  05/24  at  10:02 PM

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