Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I found the words “soapbox-ready” in the following sentence of the New York Times’ (March 11) theater review of currently-playing Broadway show, “Death of a Salesman,” titled “American Dreamer, Ambushed by the Territory”:

“This is not a woman who has been worn down by cares; she’s a vigilant, fire-breathing watchdog of her husband’s ego. And when she erupts into anger with her grown sons, it’s as if that speech had been soapbox-ready for ages.”

From the combination of the words, I guess the word, ‘soapbox-ready’ here means something like “well rehearsed or practiced” to be ready for making a speech, or talk.

However, as I checked the meaning of “soapbox-ready” on Google to make it certain, I came across quite different usages from the above interpretation:

  • Delcam software leads to soapbox success. Using PowerMILL and PowerSHAPE speeded manufacturing. The finished soapbox ready to race. - www.automotivecadcam.com/

  • International AVEW Stock Message: Town Crier getting his bell and Soapbox ready!! - investorshub.advfn.com/

What does “soapbox-ready” exactly mean?

share|improve this question
1  
the word, ‘soapbox-ready’ here means something like “well rehearsed or practiced” to be ready for making a speech, or talk. –  Jim Mar 18 '12 at 1:35
3  
The hyphen is key to this expression. "Soapbox-ready" means "ready for the soapbox;" "soapbox ready," in the examples returned by your search engine, are simply words "soapbox" and "ready" found adjacent in a sentence. –  J.R. Mar 18 '12 at 10:23
    
@JR. I overlooked the difference of “soapbox-ready” and “soapbox readgy.” Sure, I think it makes a great difference. Though this can be discussed in the separate question, does “soapbox readgy” mean “the product is ready for shipping”? Besides, I don’t understand what “soapbox success” in the example of www.automotivecadcam.com mean. –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 19 '12 at 1:39
    
Similar expression, except it's saying something's ready for a shovel, rather than ready for a soapbox: shovel ready. –  Andrew Grimm Apr 10 '13 at 9:53
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Literally, a soapbox is just a (usually wooden) packing case for soap. But from Merriam-Webster

soapbox: an improvised platform used by a self-appointed, spontaneous, or informal orator; broadly, something that provides an outlet for delivering opinions

Here are some written instances of "[get on a] soapbox about it". As often as not people use it in the negative ("I don't want to get on a soapbox about it" means "I don't want to make a big speech"). It's a fairly common figurative expression on both sides of the Atlantic.

The fact that the definition mentions an improvised platform doesn't always imply that the person delivering their opinions has only just thought of whatever they're saying. There are people who go to Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park London, year after year, delivering the same rants. Obviously they gradually refine their words based on how much support they get for different versions. But even a person who's never spoken there before would probably spend some time working out how best to put across what he wants to say.

So if this woman's vocal anger towards her sons sounded "soapbox-ready", it means she seemed to have her words carefully planned in advance, in order to have the most effect. Which is unusual, since normally when people erupt in anger their words are spontaneous, not prepared.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As noted in previous answer, a speech being "soapbox-ready" means it's ready to deliver. While the Soapbox article in wikipedia refers several times to impromptu speeches, it also mentions a number of cases where speeches are given repeatedly. Use of the term in the review is intended to add interest and color, even if the metaphor is imperfect.

In the other two instances mentioned in the question, one ("Town Crier getting his bell and Soapbox ready") refers to the most-usual sense, speaking or haranguing in public; the other refers to small unpowered race-cars, as illustrated in wikipedia's Soap Box Derby article. Some 1930's entries were made from wooden orange crates and presumably from wooden soap boxes as well. The Delcam vehicle is mostly of carbon-fibre construction.

share|improve this answer
1  
Personally, I think it's the Wikipedia article which is misleading, not OP's citation being an imperfect metaphoric usage. The "impromptu" aspect of "soapboxing" refers to the physical accoutrements, pre-publicity, etc., rather than the content and degree of planning involved in the speech itself. As you say yourself, people who give soapbox speeches often do it repeatedly, so one might well expect their rhetoric and delivery to be quite carefully honed by the time you happen to be in the audience. –  FumbleFingers Mar 18 '12 at 16:01
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.