Posted by: episystechpubs | January 11, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Break a Leg!

Good morning! Before I get started on today’s idiomatic phrase, let’s have a quick look at the differences between idioms, colloquialisms, and proverbs. The definitions, according to Google, are:

· Idiom: a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).

· Colloquialism: a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, typically one used in ordinary or familiar conversation (e.g., wanna (want to), y’all (you all), look blue (look sad).

· Proverb: a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice (e.g., “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”).

As you can see, there are some similarities and they might overlap now and then.

Today I have an idiom from our JHA collection that seems contradictory because of how it sounds and what it actually means. That is the idiom “break a leg” to mean “good luck,” usually when someone is about to go onstage.

From the Phrase Finder:

Theatrical types are well known for their belief in superstitions, or at least for their willingness to make a show of pretending to believe in them. The term “break a leg” appears to come from the belief that one ought not to utter the words “good luck” to an actor. By wishing someone bad luck, it is supposed that the opposite will occur. Other superstitions are that it is bad luck to whistle in a theatre, to say the final line of a play during dress rehearsal, or to say the name of “the Scottish Play” [KC – Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!] in a theatre’s green room.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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