DYK: Why do we tell performers to break a leg before they perform?

actorsBreak a leg comes from the superstitious age. It was once thought that jealous forces, always present, are only too anxious to spoil any venture so people looked for ways to divert the jealous forces.

It was thought that a good luck wish would alert and provoke them to do their evil work, while a curse would make them turn their attention elsewhere.

The underlying principle in the saying “Break a leg” is the belief that if you wish evil, then good will come instead.

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2 Comments

  1. Actually, “Break a leg” refers to side curtains of a theatre that mask the off stage areas which are called “legs”. In the old days when a performer got paid they had to actually appear on stage or be seen by the audience beyond the side curtains (LEGS) … otherwise no paycheck. So, “Break a Leg” refers to getting past the legs and being seen on stage for a paycheck. Many acts waited in the wings in hopes of going on-stage but didn’t know if they would be chosen. When a performer did finally get out of the wings, past the legs and on the stage… voila! a paycheck. “Break a leg” was a good wish that a performer would make a paycheck.

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