Green’s Dictionary of Slang

soap opera n.

also soap, soaper
[the original 1920s radio show, The Goldbergs, was sponsored by US soap manufacturer Proctor & Gamble]
(orig. US)

1. a radio or TV drama series, e.g. The Archers, Coronation Street, which tells the interminable tale of supposedly ‘ordinary life’; thus soap v., to watch a soap opera.

[US]Newsweek 13 Nov. 44/2: Transcontinental Network bubbled up out of the ‘soap operas’ .
[US]H.A. Smith Life in a Putty Knife Factory (1948) 220: I’ve never taken part in a so-called soap opera.
[US]Time 26 Aug. 56: One of radio’s most popular soapers.
[US]Sat. Rev. (US) 14 July 24: Writing soaps is actually helpful to a would-be serious author.
[US]P. Moore Chocolates for Breakfast 103: She got a small part in a soap opera.
[US]N.Y. Times Mag. 4 Dec. 111: Some of the new plot developments in television would never have happened in radio soaps.
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 387: It was apparant that the soap opera would become a runaway hit.
[US]New Yorker 12 Feb. 79: None of the catastrophes on soaps—and nearly every soap event is a catastrophe—are set up with much sentiment.
[US]Jackson & Christian Death Row 129: I do not watch Soaps.
[US]S. King Roadwork in Bachman Books (1995) 366: He looked at the TV. There was a soaper on.
[US]C. White Life and Times of Little Richard 193: Take that Bible out of your trunk, and get up from those soap operas!
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 89: These soap operas influence people to an extent.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 7: soap – watch the soap operas on television: ‘Time to soap!’.
[UK]Observer Review 13 June 16: She clearly saw soap as a staging post with not enough intrinsic value.
[UK]Guardian Guide 8–14 Jan. 15: A brief stint on daytime soap All My Children.
[UK]Observer Screen 9 Jan. 3: We aren’t governed by the same realism or naturalistic rules as say a soap opera.
[Aus]D. Telegraph (Sydney) 21 Dec. [Internet] Ewing plays bad boy Heath Braxton in the Channel 7 soap.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

W. Stegner Mormon Country 347: They deal with impressionable virgins caught in the net of polygamy and agonizing worse than any soap-opera heroine through endless difficulties.
[US]T. Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s 10: A soap serial he has listened to for fifteen years.
[US]New Yorker 12 Feb. 79: None of the catastrophes on soaps—and nearly every soap event is a catastrophe—are set up with much sentiment.
[Can]Maclean’s (Toronto) 31 Oct. 20: ‘Is this going to happen every day?’ was a repeated bleat from those deprived of their Monday soap fix.
[SA]IOL News (Western Cape) 1 July [Internet] One of South Africa’s most notorious soap bitches.

3. also in fig. use, of anything endlessly repetitive, albeit melodramatic.

[US]R. Chandler Lady in the Lake (1952) 41: Thanks for listening to the soap opera. And thanks for the liquor.
[US]A. Zugsmith Beat Generation 26: Did he soak up my soap opera!
[US]C. Hiaasen Tourist Season (1987) 260: I’m sorry. No more soap opera, I promise.
[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 111: She’s tired of the same fuckin’ soap.

In compounds

soap-freak (n.) [-freak sfx]

(US) a fan or devotee of a radio or TV drama series.

[US]Boston Globe (MA) 15 Oct. 25/2: Plots, such as the afore-mentioned from ‘As the World Turns’, are aimed at soap freaks.
Jrnl News (White Plains, NY) 30 June 17/1: ‘Soap freak’ develops career act out of hobby. He’s been addicted to soap for nearly 25 years.
[US]Indianapolis Star (IN) 1 Feb. 32/6: I probably don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical soap freak, but I am.
whitby posting 24 Aug. on ‘Top Ten TV Characters’ on Dooyoo Speakers’ Corner [Internet] I am an avid soap freak and watch many of the soap operas that adorn our television screens.