This weekend I mentioned that I had never seen Grease, and next thing I knew, I was plonked in front of a television with a glass of wine and crisps and ordered to enjoy myself. It’s a film that had been on my "to see" list for ages, not so much because it is the type of film I particularly enjoy (dancing?? singing?? in a film??!), but because it is a classic. Every English speaker knows it, and it has become a cultural reference. As a translator, I need to know the cultures within which the documents I translate are produced to make sure I understand every possible nuance. School took care of the literature, society and history aspects of American and British cultures, but ignored popular culture, and in many respects, this is a crucial part of a culture: people constantly use films and TV programmes as reference points. For example, I never understood references to daleks and "tardis " until they made a new series of Dr Who. Then it all became clear.
So I watched Grease. It was fun (although it’s best not to think too long about the messages it carries and the most fun part was seeing my friends burst into song at the mere hint of a recognisable tune) and from now on I’ll understand references to "beauty school dropouts". Next on my list: E.T. Are there any classics you haven’t seen?