A 'Saved by the Bell ' question.

Currently, Sky TV in the U.K are showing several series of the
school comedy ‘Saved by the Bell’, on different channels, so for example on Nickleodeon, I get the earlier series, and later series on others.

In the earlier series, Slater almost always refers to Zack as a
‘Preppie.’. Why ? What does the term mean ?

I believe it is short for “prep school”. It was used to refer to people who dressed a little too nice(expensive) for casual situations. The alligator or polo shirt was the give-away.

I found this definition on a website that deals with 80’s slang –
A person who dressed in upscale clothing and acted snobbish towards people not in the same social standings. ie. “That guy wearing the Izods is such a preppie.”

Wow. I find it interesting that the word preppie has not found it’s way into the homes of U.K. high-schoolers. Regardless,… the word means something similiar to ‘prettyboy’. It’s slang for someone who dresses nice and adheres to the ‘fine-young-man’ stereotype. On another note, Slayter is the ‘Jock’ and the squirley looking afro boy is the geek.

Thanks, everyone, for those answers. I think you’re all on the right track, with ‘Preppie’ being used to describe a smart dresser.

I was actually wondering, if the USA actually had any prep schools in the sense we British have them ( as boarding schools for young children).

I was not sure if the word came from the school; it’s not, I think widely used in England.

There are indeed prep schools in the British sense here, with boarding facilities and such, but they are almost always very expensive and only for the children of the elite or elite athletes (such as the Bollitieri Tennis schools in Florida and a prep school in Virginia that pretty much exists for elite basketball players whose name escapes me now.)

Screech = the geek

Yes, there are a number of boarding prep schools, modeled on the British type. The oldest (for America) ones are in the Northeast and are famous as preparation for acceptance into an Ivy League school.

What’s mystifying me is how “Saved by the Bell” made it all the way over to England–and why.

While upon reflection it is obvious that the term originates etymologically from prep schools, it’s used much more widely than that. Typically a preppie or prep is just anyone who dresses on the nicer side of what’s appropriate for school attire (slacks and polos instead of jeans and t-shirts) and generally follows the rules. This is contrasted with other junior high and high school stereotypes such as the jock (athletic), the punk (breaks the rules), the geek (the general loser – such as Screech, as has been mentioned), the nerd (a geek with a particular interest in computers, good grades, and Star Wars), and the burn-out (a former punk who’s done too many drugs). Although having a cool older brother can help lift you out of the more despised groups, in general they don’t have a lot to do with your family’s wealth and social class (with the caveat that although you need to be moderately wealthy to afford to dress like a preppie, just because your daddy’s rich it doesn’t mean you won’t be a geek).

This taxonomy is well-illustrated in the film “The Breakfast Club,” with Ally Sheedy as the burn out, Judd Nelson as the punk, Anthony Michael Hall as a nerdy geek, Emilio Estevez as the jock, and Molly Ringwald as a princess (a female counterpart to preppies, who I’d say were typically male).


“Preppie” seemed to find it’s way into popular American lexicon via Love Story. Jenny calls Oliver preppie–because he went to prep school. It soon evolved to mean something like a preppie-wannabe.

Oak Hill?

Or as my sister called it when she was a student there when it may have had a different focus, “Smoke Hill.”

Oak Hill is indeed the place. I believe that Alonzo Mourning went there.

On the E! True Hollywood story on SBTB they said it was syndicated in a bunch of countries all around…

Indeed. I went to one for high school. Of my own volition first year, more my parents’ choice in subsequent years. But of course that’s another story.

I don’t dispute that it the term certainly has something to do with prep schools. However, I would like to posit a different theory on how it came to be so widely accepted even in parts of culture with no exposure to prep schools.

I grew up in West Virginia, and I’d dare say that I and most of my friends never gave a thought to prep schools. However, in our school system (and most of the other school systems I knew about in my state) had three “tracks” – General, for the student who just wanted to get through school with good grades, Vocational, for the student who knew he or she wanted to make a living in some sort of skilled trade, and College Prep, for the student who knew he or she wanted to go on to college. THAT’S why we seized onto the term – Prep or Preppie described the college-bound students, most of whom happened to be the slightly higher middle-class or snobbier or whatever you wanna say about 'em.

So the principle is the same, I suppose. Just slightly different.