break a leg! [said to actors; musicians? etc.]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by catira, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. catira

    catira Junior Member

    venezuela / spanish - english - italian
    Hi to you all,

    BREAK A LEG! apparently is something actors say before they are going to perform. Is there any other phrase or expression?

    Thanks, ;)

    Note: please correct my writing if I have done any mistakes!! A thousand times thanks!!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  2. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Break a leg!
    Good luck!
    Go get 'em!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  3. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)

    Knock em dead..
    Go get em..
    Show them what your made of...

    right now that is all I can think of...

  4. mjscott Senior Member

    As stated in another post today, all of the stage experience I have had and personal acquaintances I've had with people on stage, it is NEVER good luck to say to an actor, "Good luck!"--at least that's what the word is from where I live in the world.

    I did an ethnography on play and musical production, and everyone I interviewed said the same thing. I am sure well-meaning people have said it to friends in works of drama, and superstition as it is practiced by some and not other, lends credence to whether or not it is good luck--the same way a horoscope can "come true" just because you are looking in your day for the specific generality that was written on 3 lines of newsprint next to the comics section.

    Please, if you have actor friends, let's see if this is just regional (My son holds an acting degree and has just quit his day job because he is getting enough acting parts in NYC) or global. What do other actors say?
  5. Helicopta

    Helicopta Senior Member

    England - English (Learning Spanish)
    I've always understood this to be a way of wishing an actor/actress good luck because to actually say 'good luck' is supposed to bring bad luck, so telling the person to 'break a leg', is supposed to have the opposite effect and in fact bring them good luck.
    Twisted lot, these actors, if you ask me... About time they got a proper job...;)
  6. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States

    But, why not, "Break a finger" or "Break a hip"? :rolleyes: :p
  7. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Hi mj,

    It's pretty global (cf Helicopta's & jimendeath's posts). Well established practice in the UK & Spain.

    Actors are indeed a superstitious lot : there's the other example of the Shakespeare play referred to as "the Scottish play" (and its title character as "the Scottish king"), because it's bad luck to use the real name. I would say which one I mean, but it's bad luck to use the real name!! ;) .... Don't know where that superstition comes from. Anyone know?

    W :):)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  8. Agnès E.

    Agnès E. Senior Member

    France, French
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  9. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Thanks Agnès,

    It's so much easier (lazier!) letting someone else do the googling for me :eek: , and the explanation was very interesting and unexpected.

    I thoroughly recommend Agnès' Agnès's the link provided by Agnès (sorry, cross-threading! ;) ) : Click on 'More Superstitions' at the bottom, to find origins of "break a leg" (also not what you'd expect) and other fascinating theatre superstitions.

    W :):)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  10. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    The expression is not a bad thing. "Break a leg" refers to how the performer bows. In Shakespearean days, to acknowledge great applause, the actor bowed by putting one leg directly behind him and lowering himself by bending the other knee. The bent leg was then called broken leg. So saying "break a leg" means "Do a great job, earn great applause, and bow with bended knee."
  11. ElisaA. Junior Member

    Goodmorning everyone here.

    In relation to the famous expression "break your leg" , I'd like to know whether one can say it also to a rockband before a concert of them.

    Many Thanks :)

    ARTICLE? I was forgetting this..."Break your leg" or "Brea a leg"? Many Thanks
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2009
  12. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    :arrow: Response to post #11.

    The saying I know is "break a leg".

    What I don't know is how rock musicians feel about this. Since the saying is based on superstition, and every group has its own superstitions, it would be nice if a musician would tell us.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  13. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    No comment about what rock musicians feel, when they are smashing guitars or doing other rock musicianly things. Classical performers, and those of us who have had the pleasure of playing in pit orchestras, often said "Break a leg" to the actors, but never amongst ourselves.
  14. ElisaA. Junior Member


    Hello you all.

    A native speaker answered. please tell me if it is correct:

    << No, you can't. Only for actors in the theatre! To a musician you say "Smack the pony".>>

    Thanks, Elisa
  15. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hello ElisaA,

    This thread is about "break a leg!", but I'll try to sneak in a reply. I have never heard "Smack the pony" in a musical setting. It may be a regionalism. If you wish to discuss pony smacking in more detail, please open a new thread.
  16. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    (I think someone may be pulling your leg there, Elisa. This is the only use of Smack the pony I've ever come across.)
  17. ElisaA. Junior Member

    Ohoh....I have seen! I think my friend was joking then!! ahaha!

    Finally, a simple good luck would be ok before a concert, wouldn't it?
  18. hexlinger New Member

    Break a leg is an actor's thing.
    Maird is a Dancer's (Ballet) thing
    A toast to the Wolf's Eye and NOT spitting in it is an Opera thing.
    Musician's don't normally have a "good luck" idiom as they are musicians and in my experience a bunch of overpaid devas. (I'm a stagehand and yes I did just say that. Take that Symphony Members!)

    It's all about a a superstitious lot of people. Break a leg came about early in the 1800's when an actor was wished good luck before he went out on stage and then subsequently fell and broke his leg. He blamed the good lucker giver and from then on requested that no one wish him good luck ever again. "For to be given Good Luck is a curse upon its self, so wish me bad luck or to break my leg again and I will be guaranteed the bounty of God to be better than possible on the stage's floor."

    Maird for some reason came to be the word for Ballet as it is an insulting word of great offense in French. And well the French are just odd. *wink*

    The toast to the Wolf for Opera is a tradition. As old school Opera's are written in French, German and Italian. In Italian, the Devil is often compared to the Wolf. In the Opera world, the the wolf, is the forgetting of the words or the melody or the timing and flubbing the preformance. So to not spit in the Wolf's eye, is akin to being aware of problems that may arise and steer clear of them.

    Someone also mentioned the Scottish Play and why they didn't know why it was a curse to say the name/title or quotes from the play. That comes simply from the legend. Shakespeare himself had problems coming up with the Witches' lines so he actually found a few witches, partied a little with them and then stole the words from one of their spells. The witch became so furious she cursed the play itself. Voilla! There might be a few preformances of the Scottish Play that have not been affected but most Theatre and Opera Houses will not put the show on as people have died during the course of the preformance. In my experience, when those youngin's try to test the curse out in the College theatre a Hurricane, Tornado or Lighting has damaged the building or lighting cues. Once you have discovered someone has said the dreaded cursed words, everyone's response should be to immediately turn around 3 times counterclockwise, run outside the first door and spit on the ground. That, my friends, is the counter curse to the dreaded Scottish Play Curse.
  19. vtg81 Senior Member


    I would like to know whether there is a reply to the expression "break a leg", in other words if someone says "break a leg" to you, are you suppose to reply "thank you"?

    Thank you in advance
  20. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    It does sound odd, doesn't it, but that's what I've heard. "Break a leg!" "Thanks!"
  21. hexlinger New Member

    I don't think it's a bad thing to say thanks. You're acknowledging someone for speaking to you. So yeah. Go ahead and say thank you it won't kill the world to be a little polite.
  22. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    But in some acting circles, the superstition is that it's bad luck to reply at all (unless it's a "You too" kind of reply to a fellow-actor). However, I agree with hexlinger that it's pretty impolite to say nothing, so my compromise is usually to reply with a smile and an "uh huh".

  23. Broccolicious Senior Member

    Glorious Devonshire
    English - England
    Apologies for resurrecting this again, but I'm still curious. I've heard 'toi toi toi!' for singers, but is there really no equivalent for musicians? Dare I wish them plain old 'good luck'?

  24. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    According to our dictionary, the idiom is used theatrically, but can I use this idiom outside the theatrical context?

    -Tomorrow I will have an interview.
    -Break a leg.

    Does it make sense?
  25. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Well, an interview might be seen as a kind of performance, so it might work in that particular case as a humorous comment. It would not, however, sound too good when applied to a doctor's appointment, a divorce hearing or an athletic event. :)
  26. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't know of one for musicians. "Have a great concert/gig" would work, I think. In my experience, musicians don't tend to be as romantic about the act of performing the way singers, actors and dancers are. It's more of a job to them.

    On a great night it all comes together and is very fulfilling. On an average night you do your best, pack up the instrument and head home. And then there are those frustrating nights when it all comes together and the audience seems totally unaware that it's going well. :(

    No, I think I would just say "Good luck!" or "Hope it goes well!" or "Have a great concert."

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