Where did the expression 'break a leg' come from?

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Stage actors are a particularly superstitious lot -- they don't say "Macbeth" in a theater, they don't whistle backstage, and they never wish each other "good luck" before a performance. This last tradition is a form of reverse psychology. They don't want to tempt fate by talking about positive outcomes in advance. So instead, they tell each other to "break a leg." While the idea behind the phrase is quite old, possibly dating from medieval belief in malevolent spirits, "break a leg" itself is fairly recent. It was whispered in theater circles starting in the 1920s, and first appeared in print around 1954 or 1957. The exact origin of "break a leg" isn't clear. Several etymology resources note the phrase's similarity to a German saying <a href="http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-br more
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