Do you applaud after a great play’s finale or do you pound your chair into the ground so much the leg breaks off? When the curtain is pulled aside and the actors rush in, do the “legs” of the theater break? Is there a gladiator you wish to keep his life rather than to perish in a grand spectacle, and so you wish he would just break a leg and be eliminated?
These and more are theorized as the origination of the idiom “break a leg” which is wished on an actor prior to a performance. Although the photo above is clearly of a play and there do not appear to be any broken legs, there is a cute little kid with an accordion. Although it is unidentified, this photo says The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to me.
But, back to the breaking of the leg. It is said that in the theater, it is bad luck to wish someone good luck on stage, and so you wish someone bad luck in the hopes that they have good luck! Apparently, stage actors of previous centuries were quite superstitious. Thanks to Wikipedia, we have a variety of origin stories for this phrase, but there were not many written apocryphal references, only modern ones. The phrase may have come about in the 1920s, as understudies wishing the lead actor would become injured, thereby bringing up the understudy.
No matter the origin, “break a leg” is a means to wish an actor good luck. For more actors from far and wide, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did!