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Into the Mouth of the Wolf!

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Michelle in Pembroke Pines, Florida wonders why performers wish each other luck with the admonition Break a leg! This practice of wishing the opposite of what you really mean appears across a wide range of theatrical traditions. German performers tell each other Hals- und Beinbruch (literally, “May you break your neck and your leg”) and Italians use the phrase in bocca al lupo (literally, “into the mouth of the wolf”), the response to which is crepi il lupo or “May the wolf die.” Other performers often say toi toi toi, as if spitting, in an effort to ward off the devil. This is part of a complete episode.

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