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