Thursday, 12 December 2013

Where does the phrase 'omnibus edition' come from?

The omnibus edition is a mainstay of weekend daytime television, consisting of several episodes of a soap opera edited together into one abysmally long program. After their introduction by Brookside in 1991 it seems that the only way is up for these depressingly tedious shows. Yet their incredibly cryptic name would on first glance seem to come from nowhere. So... Where does it come from?

There are two theories. The first is that it is somehow derived from the 1920s term omnibus books, which referred to a book of many varied writings, which is itself derived from the Latin word 'omnibus', meaning 'for all'. How it got to large passenger vehicles is obvious enough, but how it applies to the TV shows I have not a clue.

The second theory, formulated by me a few minutes ago, is simpler but almost certainly wrong. This theory posits that it is named after the all too true observation that after one waits ages for a bus, two invariably come along at once. This group of similar things coming in quick succession all too easily lends itself to the omnibus format. And I *really* want it to be true.

We'd better hope that this doesn't result in Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (SORAS). This is an unfortunate condition suffered by soap characters who disappear from the storyline of a show for some time, and a botched cast change operation can result in characters looking older than you'd expect. In As the World Turns, Tom Hughes was born on screen in 1961. By 1970 he had been to college and fought in the Vietnam War. Now Gary Numan may have taught us that the American soldiers were worryingly young, but I doubt that even Lyndon B Johnson could have been that horrid.

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