Best of luck!

Article published on May 24, 2006
Article published on May 24, 2006
Many Europeans like to think of the Old Continent as the cradle of rationality, where such medieval notions as superstition belong to the past. Still, we regularly knock on wood, get uncomfortable on Friday the 13th, and avoid walking underneath ladders. Similarly, the last thing to do when wishing for something to happen is to speak the words out loud

Don’t feel threatened when a Briton wishes you a serious injury just before you go on stage. Break a leg is his way of saying good luck. Nor do Germans and Hungarians, not satisfied with a mere leg, curse each other into intensive care when they say Hals und Beinbruch, and kéz és labtörést(break an arm and a leg). The Italians, known for their theatrical ways, fend off the evil spirits of fortune by placing you inside the mouth of a wolf: In bócca al lupo, they say, to which the corresponding reply would be crepi il lupo; that the wolf may die. The French, those infamous poets, say merde - 'shit'.

Illustration: © Henning Studte