BCSM: na visokoj nozi

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  • jasio

    Senior Member
    Just curious: does it refer to a leg or just to a foot? In Polish there is an (almost?) identical idiom, with apparently the same meaning: "na wysokiej stopie" - referring to a foot.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I'm inclined to think it's probably "foot", and the same expression exists in Czech, Slovak and Russian (except in Russian it's a "wide" foot). The origin isn't clear. According to this (junior.ru) Russian source, in the Middle Ages King Henry II of England had a growth on his big toe and had to wear shoes with long curled-up front ends, and the nobles then imitated the idea. But we don't have any similar phrase in English except, maybe, "live the high life", which has nothing to do with the length of one's shoes.

    I've seen other explanations that suggest it comes from the idea that rich people who didn't have to do menial work wore high heels, and others that it derives from the "foot"("pied") as a unit of length so if you were rich, you lived on a high "ratio" or "measure" of expenditure.
     
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    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    In Macedonian there is the expression живее на висока нога (žívee na vísoka nóga), which in Zoze Murgoski's "Macedonian-English dictionary of idioms" is explained as: live it up; live in clover; live high off the hog.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    I'm inclined to think it's probably "foot", and the same expression exists in Czech, Slovak and Russian (except in Russian it's a "wide" foot). The origin isn't clear. According to this (junior.ru) Russian source, in the Middle Ages King Henry II of England had a growth on his big toe and had to wear shoes with long curled-up front ends, and the nobles then imitated the idea. But we don't have any similar phrase in English except, maybe, "live the high life", which has nothing to do with the length of one's shoes.
    Thank you. If the idiom is known virtually unchanged across virtually all slavic languages, I would perhaps naively locate it some time before the Hungarians separated the north from the south. So it would be closer to the king Arthur rather than Henry. ;-)
    I don't have any evidence for that though.

    Any idea if similar idioms exist in neighboring non - slavic languages?
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    I've always interpreted noga in živjeti na visokoj nozi as 'leg' rather than as 'foot'. Might be because noga is prototypically 'leg', rather than 'foot'. It was quite a surprise to see 'foot' being used in other languages' equivalents of this idiom!
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    I've always interpreted noga in živjeti na visokoj nozi as 'leg' rather than as 'foot'. Might be because noga is prototypically 'leg', rather than 'foot'. It was quite a surprise to see 'foot' being used in other languages' equivalents of this idiom!
    That's why I asked about it in the first place: In Polish the word 'noga' ('leg') also exists, and the inflected form 'nozi' is quite consistent with the Polish 'nodze' - and even more so with what I would expect it to sound in Czech or Slovak. In Polish we say about 'high foot', ('stopa', 'na wysokiej stopie'), but such semantic shifts are quite common between the languages, so I was curious it if was a slightly different idiom or a narrowing the meaning of 'noga' to mean only the foot.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    As for the origin of this idiom, I remember hearing once that it refers to the old practice of nobles wearing high-heeled or platform shoes (cf. the famous image of Louis XIV in the article). But it seems to make more sense in languages where it's a high leg/foot (only Croatian, Macedonian?) than in those where it's a big leg/foot (all others?).
    In the shed of the discussion, the latter considers only Slovenian, as far as I can tell. :)

    In Polish it's a high foot (which is consistent with the presumably French origin, if you consider high popularity of the French language among nobility and educated classes since ~17th-18th century until ~WW2), so it is in the Czech (except that it's a high leg rather than foot, Vysoká noha). In Russian and Ukrainian it's a broad leg instead (Як жити на широку ногу, якщо мало грошей). ALthough in Russian it can also be a big leg (На широкую ногу (жить) - Крылатые выражения, афоризмы - Отрезал.РУ).
     
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