Dear AC,

The stage production of Grease uses the term “Fongool” at the end of Rizzo's song about Sandra Dee. I'm sure it's some sort of derogatory name, but can't find the meaning. Help!

John S.

Dear John,

I'm shocked that I don't remember that, despite having played the part of Rizzo when I was a college student. Obviously, my memory is poor, but I can help you with that question anyway.

In the song, not-so-innocent Rizzo makes fun of her virginal classmate Sandy by discussing the sexless lives of 1950s movie stars like Doris Day and Sandra Dee. Addressing an imaginary Elvis Presley, she pretends to be horrified by his romantic interest:

Elvis, Elvis, let me be!
Keep that pelvis far from me!
Just keep your cool
Now you're starting to drool
Hey fongool, I'm Sandra Dee!

But fongool (also fangool) is not, as it might appear here, a word to describe people. It is an Americanized version of Italian profanity. The original phrase is Va' a fare in culo, often shortened to vaffanculo, or just fanculo. This literally means “go do it in an ass” and is similar to the English phrase fuck you.

For those of you who, like myself, are too young to have seen it firsthand, that pelvis comment is a reference to Elvis' infamous hip shaking dance. When he was scheduled to appear on Ed Sullivan Show in 1957, it was considered so sexy that the cameras were only allowed to show him from the waist up. What would Ed have thought of Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé, I wonder?

Your pal,


A. C. Kemp

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