more on "break a leg"

David Metevia djmetevia at CHARTERMI.NET
Sun Mar 15 15:03:55 UTC 2009

Among my wife's Polish ancestors and current relatives, it is common for
them to say - Don't vashinady (have no idea of the spelling) - this
means don't mention something for the opposite will occur.  This
happened yesterday - my mother-in-law commented on how stylish my wife's
dollar store sunglasses looked and that they have lasted for a couple of
years.....she vashinadied....they broke apart that afternoon.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Wilton
Sent: Sunday, March 15, 2009 10:46
Subject: Re: more on "break a leg"

I wasn't saying the anti-good-luck-wishing superstition was peculiar to
acting. I was saying, in response to the post about there not being such
superstition in general, that just because there isn't a broad
doesn't mean the superstition can't exist in particular subcultures and
circumstances. (And I'm not convinced there isn't a broad,
anti-good-luck-wishing superstition; it crops up again and again.
example, from baseball this time, is not mentioning a no-hitter in
If we keep this thread going, I think we'll find dozens of other
Just because we don't have a word for something, doesn't mean the
doesn't exist--and we do have such a word, "jinx.")

As to "jinx," I was thinking of the sense of jinx referring to the
superstition of saying something and then not having it come true, as in
"now it's not going to happen since you just jinxed it." I was not
"jinx" forward as being linguistically related to "break a leg;" I was
putting forward an example of anti-good-luck wishing superstition.

And "break a leg" is also a relatively recent development, more recent
"jinx." I think the earliest citation anyone has found is from 1957
Said 'Break Leg'--So Actress Does It," Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, WA),
May 1957, Evening, 7.)--although there are personal recollections that
the phrase to the 1930s.

(A 1954 newspaper article refers to "neck and leg break." The same
also says that the director of that particular production had literally
broken his leg during a rehearsal, yet the article does not refer to the
phrase "break a leg" specifically, indicating that that particular
was not in the lexicon of that troop of actors or the reporter.
"Director is
Hurt During Rehearsal," News (Frederick, MD), 18 June 1954, 4.)

The American Dialect Society -

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