"break a leg"

Jan Ivarsson janivars at BAHNHOF.SE
Tue Jan 23 21:49:31 UTC 2001

Nigel Rees' Dictionary of Phrase & Allusion (Bloomsbury 1993) has the phrase and confirms my opinion:
"This traditional greeting is said before a performance, especially a first night (...) Morris (Dict. of Word and Phrase Origins, 1977) has it based on a German good luck expression, Hals- und Beinbruch."

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve K." <stevek at SHORE.NET>
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 9:27 PM
Subject: Re: "break a leg"

> On Tue, 23 Jan 2001, Laurence Horn wrote:
> > The term break a leg is referring to the curtains on the side of the
> > stage, which are behind the main curtain.  These are the "legs" so
> > breaking a leg means to make it successfully out on to the stage, and
> > then giving a good performance.
> Incidentally, as I alluded to in my other message, I think this is wrong
> simply from the standpoint that it's unlikely that an actor would wish
> someone good luck, as that would be bad luck.
> (I have witnessed superstitous actors walk under ladders backstage without
> a qualm, with the rationale that since that's bad luck, it's therefore
> good luck. [Although it's pretty stupid, since a technician could
> accidently drop something on your head if you bump the ladder.])
> --- Steve K.

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