5

I completely fail to understand the word "taps" in this text:

The dystopian Netflix hit taps South Korea’s worries about costly housing and scarce jobs, concerns familiar to its U.S. and international viewers.

3
  • 6
    might have been slightly clearer if written as "taps into" ?
    – MikeB
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:02
  • I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they just didn’t really use taps properly here. As stated, “taps into” might be better, or “reports on”, “investigates”, or even just “covers”.
    – Ron Kyle
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 17:34
  • @RonKyle No, "taps" is better here than "reports on". It is not a documentary about economic anxiety, but a highly fictional show that achieves relevance by drawing on that theme.
    – nanoman
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 19:47

3 Answers 3

16

Cambridge has this:

Tap verb to get or make use of something: There is a rich vein of literary talent here just waiting to be tapped by publishers.

Lexico:

Exploit or draw a supply from (a resource).

The sentence you've quoted:

"The dystopian Netflix hit taps South Korea’s worries about costly housing and scarce jobs, concerns familiar to its U.S. and international viewers."

"Taps" = exploits/makes use of/benefits from

("Hit" is a noun here = a popular show/song/movie or other cultural phenomenon.)

10

Tap can be verb. For example, rubber trees are tapped for latex. The sentence means the Netflix hit 'draws on' South Korea's worries. To draw on something means to use it or (as here, I think) exploit it.

2

In this case, this would be something like meaning 3 of Tap in Oxford Learner's Dictionary

to make use of a source of energy, knowledge, etc. that already exists

though also related to meanings 4, 5, and 6

to fit a device to a phone so that somebody’s calls can be listened to secretly

to cut into a tree in order to get liquid from it

to choose somebody to do a particular job

This would be distinct from creating something from nothing, "tap" in this sense emphasizes accessing or using something that already exists

Why the word tap/tapping has come to have this meaning is likely because of the old process of extracting liquid in a controlled process from a sealed barrel via drilling a hole and inserting a tap, as seen here

Also see v.2 at the Online Etymology Dictionary

"to supply with a tap," late Old English tæppian, from source of tap (n.1) ["stopper, faucet through which liquid can be drawn,"]; compare German zapfen "to tap." Meaning "to draw liquor with a tap" is from mid-15c. Extended sense "make use of" is first recorded 1570s. Meaning "listen in secretly" (1869), originally was with reference to telegraph wires. Tapped out "broke" is 1940s slang, perhaps from the notion of having tapped all one's acquaintances for loans already (compare British slang on the tap "begging, making requests for loans," 1932).

6
  • Excellent point, thank you! I've revised to include a complete answer Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 20:33
  • I do not think the sense of "to fit a device to a phone so that somebody’s calls can be listened to secretly" is very relevant here. Otherwise i agree with this answer. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 20:43
  • Note: British English still uses the word 'tap' for the device to let water into a sink/basin/bath, rather than the US 'faucet'. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 8:41
  • @DavidSiegel I've always thought of it as "adding a tap to extract some information from the existing stream of information" with the tap being added somewhere along the line, not at the phone handset itself, but that may just be made up in my head and not where it came from! Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 18:49
  • @electron.rotoscope I think that the sense of "to tap a phone line" is indeed derived by metaphor from the older sense of "to tap a barrel". But I don't think the phone line sense is very relevant to the sense of "taps worries" or "taps feelings", which I think are directly derived from the "tap a barrel" sense. I should have written "phone line" not just "phone" in my comment. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 18:55

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