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Beauty School Drop-Out

January 11, 2019

As a professional songwriter and teacher, I have often employed American popular music to help teach English to non-native speakers. Learning the book stuff is fine and very much needed, but to truly function in American English, one needs an understanding of American idiom or street talk. If you have ever lived in or visited another country, you know that the book talk is not what you find on the streets. Decades ago, as a high school teacher, I used contemporary music to help Hispanic students grasp the English language as it is spoken in everyday situations to augment the textbook English grammar and literature that I regularly taught in class.

I have used many songs in this endeavor throughout the years, most recently in Italy where I have taught Italian English teachers how to teach literature, poetry and American culture. I have employed a vast array of songs from San Francisco Nights (by The Animals) to some of my own compositions such as Cotton Candy Dreams. One of my favorite songs to use to teach American idiom is Beauty School Drop-Out, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and performed by Frankie Avalon for the 1978 movie Grease. Why? Take a look!

Here are the lyrics:

Beauty School Drop-Out

Your story’s sad to tell, a teenage ne’er-do-well
Most mixed up non-delinquent on the block
Your future’s so unclear now,
What’s left of your career now
Can’t even get a trade-in on your smile (“smock” in some versions)
Beauty school drop-out, no graduation day for you
Beauty school drop-out, missed your midterms and flunked shampoo
Well at least you could have taken time to wash and clean your clothes up
After spending all that dough to have the doctor fix your nose up
Baby get moving (better get moving),
Why keep your feeble hopes alive
What are you proving (what are you proving)?
You’ve got the dream, but not the drive
If you go for your diploma, you could join a steno pool
Turn in your teasin’ comb and go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, hangin’ around the corner store
Beauty school drop-out, it’s about time you knew the score
Well they couldn’t teach you anything, you think you’re such a looker
But no customer would go to you, unless she was a hooker
Baby don’t sweat it (don’t sweat it), you’re not cut out to hold the job
Better forget it (forget it), who wants their hair done by a slob
Now your bangs are curled, your lashes twirled, and still the world is cruel
Wipe off that angel face and go back to high school
Baby don’t blow it, don’t put my good advice to shame
Baby you know it, even Dear Abby’s say the same
Now I’ve called the shot, get off the pot, I really gotta fly
Gotta be goin’ to that malt shop in the sky
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school
Beauty school drop-out, go back to high school

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here’s some words and phrases that non-American English speakers can get familiar with through this song:

. Beauty School  . Drop -out . Ne’re-do-well . Non-delinquent . Block  . Smock .Trade-in . Midterms . Flunked

. Dough . Fix your nose up . Get moving . Drive . Diploma . Steno pool . Teasin’ comb . Hangin’ around

. Corner store . Knew the score . Looker . Hooker . Don’t sweat it . Not cut out . Slob . Bangs . Wipe off

. Lashes . Angel face . Blow it . Dear Abby . Called the shot . Get off the pot . Gotta fly . Malt shop

Many of these words and phrases have literal translations which certainly can be found. However, the American street meaning of Don’t Sweat It is much different that what you would find using Google Translate. What you would find there, non sudare, doesn’t mean the same thing at all.  This same principle applies to most others cited above.

If you are reading this and you are a native English speaker, you may say, “No big deal!” But remember even that is a piece of American idiom that is apt not to be fully understood by non-native American English speakers.

Here’s a video out-take from the movie, also with the lyrics:

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Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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4 Comments
  1. Davvero interessante!

    Grazie per i consigli

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent!
    There are ”unique expression”in foreign language,so non-native Often can’t understand it(T▽T)!!
    There is no other way except to memorize it,don’t you?:D

    Liked by 2 people

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