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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

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