break a leg, again

Peter Richardson prichard at LINFIELD.EDU
Wed Dec 4 17:43:17 UTC 2002

Recent discussion of the provenance of "break a leg" led me to Lutz
Roehrich's Lexikon der sprichwoertlichen Redensarten for information about
the German equivalent, "Hals- und Beinbruch". Roehrich maintains--as was
mentioned on this list recently--that the notion of wishing someone the
opposite of what's really meant is, to be sure, firmly anchored in folk
belief but in this case is falsely applied. He derives "Hals- und
Beinbruch" from Hebrew "hazloche un broche" [hazlacha 'good fortune' +
b'racha 'blessing']. It's easy enough to hear through "haz-" and "broche"
to Hals and Bruch. This doesn't help us with "break a leg," but it does, I
think, suggest that we should expect earlier attestations of our own
version to pop up at some point--perhaps in a communication from Barry,
who has flown to London to examine old playbills just for this purpose.

Peter R.

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