Nugget of Knowledge: Soap operas and jaywalking

Where did the terms "soap opera" and "jaywalking" come from?

Nugget of Knowledge

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Someone who crosses the street with no regard to crosswalks or traffic, this person is jaywalking.

Where did the term come from?

In early 20th century America, “jay” was not a nice term. We used it to describe someone from the country, a “bumpkin,” a “rube” who didn’t know his way around the city.

City folk used it to describe someone walking stupidly or carelessly around the street. He was a jaywalker.

It first shows up in print in the “Chicago Tribune” in 1909, then the “New York Times” in 1915, calling jaywalking “dangerous and shocking.”

Why do we call those daytime TV dramas soap operas?

It all started in the 1920s.

The radio networks began putting on dramas aimed at a female audience listening in the daytime.

To pay for the shows, the networks began to look for sponsors. Because the audience was female, the first major sponsors were soap manufacturers: the ladies did the laundry, the ladies did the dishes.

Proctor and Gamble, Colgate Palmolive and Lever Brothers were the first — all soap makers — so newspapers began referring to the radio plays as soap operas. The name stuck.

Why do actors say to each other, “break a leg?”

It’s supposed to mean “Good luck. Have a great show.”

We’re not sure of the origin, but this is one theory:

It goes back to the time of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan theatre.

At that time, to break a leg meant just to bow, to bend at the knee. Nothing was actually supposed to break.

A successful actor would break a leg on stage — in other words, take a bow and accept your applause — so it became a wish for good luck.

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