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What's Soap with You?

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Hey, Camp Folks! 

Thanks for joining us once again for today’s post in which we’ll discover another Adage Origin where I deep dive all those popular phrases and sayings that everyone knows, but seldom understand why they mean what they mean. They’re so built in to our language that we may not even realize we’re using them. Today’s term we’re looking at is ‘Soap Opera’. 

Soap Opera—a decidedly odd phrase—refers to a long-running radio or television serial which is often regarded as melodramas with ensemble casts. It’s an odd phrase, because it doesn’t seem to describe whatsoever what it’s referring to. 

Soap Opera may sound like a fitting name, but that’s likely just because we’re so used to it by now that we don’t really question its strangeness. It’s not like these hyper-serialized programs are ever about soap, right? And where does the opera come into play? 

For now, let’s set the soap part aside and just concentrate on the opera part. The word opera comes from the Latin ‘opus’ which simply means work or composition. Italian operas, notorious for being a big, loud production lent the term to be applied to other genres as something of an insult. 

No Horsin’ Around
Preceding Soap Operas were Horse Operas. A Horse Opera was referring to the vintage Western programs like ‘Red Ryder’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’. The term opera was initially intended as a putdown of the clichéd and corny plot devices of serial Westerns, however the term was happily accepted by fans of the genre. 

Based in Space
Before Soap Operas, there were Horse Operas. After Soap Operas, there were Space Operas. ‘Star Wars’ being a prime example, was eventually categorized as a Space Opera with a long, serialized plot set, of course, in the distant reaches of outer space with lots of effects and fanfare. 

The Scope of Soap
So where does soap come into the picture? Well, back when the first Soap Operas premiered, it was revolutionary to daytime television. Daytime advertisements would frequently try selling soap during the commercials that played throughout early Soap Operas. 

Who knew the term Soap Opera spawned a variation for its science fiction cousin and that Soap Opera itself was already a variation from Horse Opera?! Interesting stuff! A strange term, nevertheless, it seems the phrase isn’t going anywhere. And who knows what other opera variations will come about in times to come. As always, thanks for reading Camp Fans. Happy Camping! 

 

- John


Don't Chase Me!

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Hey, Camp Folks! 

There are so many common phrases and expressions that have been so sewn into the fabric of our everyday speech that we use them without even realizing it. Some can sound a bit bizarre if you don’t know the origin of the phrase. For example, ‘Fly off the Handle’ originated from lumberjacks losing their axeheads as they got loose and flew off. You can read more about that right here

For today’s post, however, let’s take a look at the phrase ‘Cut to the Chase’. Time is an essential thing in our lives and none of us want ours to be wasted (unless we’re the ones doing it!). Cut to the Chase is what you say when you want someone to stop WASTING YOUR TIME AND GET TO THE POINT! 

…sorry to fly off the handle, there. 

But why the phrase ‘Cut to the Chase’? Where exactly are we cutting and what chase are we talking about? To answer these questions, let’s learn a little history lesson about the movies. 

All films from the beginning of the technology in the late 1870s to the first talkie in 1927 were silent movies. Back then, films were simpler. Chase scenes were an exciting way to end a film and it became a popular resort to give the film a good visual climax—a grand finale, so to speak. 

Screenwriters and directors alike, in a desperate attempt to add on to the runtime of their films, would insert unnecessary dialogue and whole scenes that didn’t have much purpose just to give the movie that filler and pad the time before getting to the inevitable chase scene. 

More often than not, this tactic would fail, simply resulting in a bored audience. This is where movie studio executives like Hal Roach Sr. who is thought to have coined the phrase would tell the directors, “Cut to the chase.” So now you know, ‘cut’ is referring to a film cut and the ‘chase’ is the climax of the movie. 

Be sure to use this when your brother or sister is boring you and you want them to get on with their story! Next time we’ll be studying the term ‘Soap Opera’. Until then, Cut to the Chase. And, as always, thanks for reading. 

 

- John


The Time has Come

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Hey, Camp Fans! 

Dive with us on another investigation into those abundant phrases and old sayings that are so woven into our everyday speech that, often enough, we don’t even realize we’re using them. These sayings are more specifically referred to as idioms or adages. Today’s adage: ‘Face the Music’. 

As you can probably gather from the context in which you’ve heard it used, the phrase ‘Face the Music’ means to accept and confront the unpleasant consequences of the actions you took. For example: Tom decided to admit that he didn’t do his homework and face the music. 

The exact origin of this phrase is unknown, but there are a few good guesses: 

Theory 1
When an officer in the military is relieved of their duties due to a failure to uphold the law of their office, they call it a dishonorable discharge. In older times, a spectacle would be made in a number of ways including playing the drums solemnly behind them or ‘drumming them out’ of the regiment. 

Theory 2
Another theory is that it applies to the high-pressure stage setting where actors sweat through a performance literally facing the orchestra pit. This theory would have it that fellow actors would say to one another when it was someone’s turn to take the stage—“time to face the music.” 

Theory 3
‘Face the Music’ could also come from the West Gallery singing from the west galleries of Old English churches—the idea being that the singing common folk weren't allowed to sit in the parts of the church reserved for the nobility. Only the upper class was allowed to face the music of the singing choir. 

The next time you need to fess up to something, just get it over with and face the music! Enjoy another adage origin Blog post from the past by clicking right here. And, as always, thanks for reading! 

 

- John


Check out THESE Pipes

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Hey, Music Fans!

Why do we say the same, centuries-old phrases and sayings? Most of the time we say them without even knowing it. They’re so built in to our daily speech that we don’t even think about it. Folks find themselves saying phrases like ‘Stick out like a Sore Thumb’ and ‘Showing the Ropes’. Today we’re examining the origin of the phrase ‘Pull Out all the Stops’.

What does it mean? This is one common saying whose message isn’t quite so clear (though you may be able to guess from the context in which you’ve heard it), ‘Pull Out all the Stops’ means to make every possible effort in order to make something happen. So what exactly what kind of ‘stops’ are we talking about pulling out here?

Well, several centuries ago, people started using the word ‘stop’ in a musical context. It actually referred to a key or note. Thus, a sheet of music could be described as being ‘full of stops’.

With its foot already in the musical door, 'stop' sort of dropped its connotation as a musical note and went on to be used to refer to the knobs in pipe organs that control the airflow through the pipes—either by pushing them in or pulling them out. Pulling out the stops increases the volume coming out.

At this point in time, anyone talking about pulling out the stops was literally referring to these pipe organ knobs. However, the phrase slowly acquired a figurative sense. It was first recorded with figurative use in an 1865 essay written by one Matthew Arnold.

The next time you’re faced with a challenging task, pull out all the stops to see it through! Enjoy another adage origin Blog post from the past by clicking right here. And, as always, thanks for reading!

 

- John


The All Correct...

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Hey, Camp Folks!

‘OK’ goes back to the 1830s. You know how people love to abbreviate things nowadays like tbh, omw, and lol? Well, that’s not exactly new. Folks back in the 1830s started abbreviating quick sayings. To turn it into something of an inside joke for those that understood, kids started purposefully misspelling quick sayings. Instead of “No Go”, they would say KG for ‘know go’. Or maybe they’d say OW for “oll write”.  

A common abbreviation they used was ‘OK’—short for “oll korrect”. All Correct was already a common phrase in the 1800s used to confirm that everything was in order. But it’s misspelled and abbreviated version really started taking off when it was published in the Boston Morning Post on March 23, 1839. Other papers started using it too and before long it spread across the country!

After that, OK started gaining so much traction that supporters of the President at the time, Martin Van Buren, started using the abbreviation for his reelection campaign. Being from Kinderhook, NY, Martin's message was that “Old Kinderhook” was “oll korrect”. His opponents turned it around on him, however, saying the OK stood for an “Orful Katastrophe”.

Use in the presidential campaign cemented OK in American culture and language. But by 1844, OK was elevated from slang into official and practical use with the invention of the telegraph. OK proved itself to be very helpful in a media that valued short messages being relayed by Morse Code. O and K were easy letters to tap out and were unlikely to be confused with anything else.  

OK has lasted long after those other misspelled abbreviations have been forgotten. How strange that an inside joke from Boston nearly 200 years ago has maintained its popularity even now. Enjoy giving confirmation going forward and, as always, thanks for reading.

 

- John