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Idioms explained: Break a leg

A very popular expression explained at the hand of a original story to gain firmer grasp of meaning and context

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Season 2, episode 8
11 min / Published

Larry had worse luck than almost anyone he knew or had hear of before.

His misfortune was widely known and even more widely discussed.

Nothing went his way, until one day his bad fortunes brought him some sorely needed good results.

Find out how unfortunate circumstances can prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Find out how the term "break a leg" actually turned out to be a good thing... for a change.

Show notes

Break a leg

Barry and Larry were identical twins. They looked so much alike, their mother Carrie, sometimes had difficulty telling them apart. She would stare at them for a moment or two while she was trying to figure out who was who? It wouldn't take her too long though, she just had to look for a bandage, plaster, bruising or some form of healing wound on one of her boys to be able to make a distinction.

See, albeit Larry and Barry were identical in every shape and form, they had one unmistakable feature that set them apart like night from day. Larry was dogged by extremely bad luck. If ever there was an opportunity, even the slightest chance that something could go wrong, it inevitably did and poor Larry always paid the price. He was jinxed some would say, while others preferred to believe that he was simply star-crossed.

His horrid misfortune became the stuff of legend. People knew of him before they got to know him. If there was ever a discussion about a unfortunate, yet unlikely mishap, Larry's name was never far from the punch line. Tales of his unfortunate fortunes were a dime a dozen – everyone had a story to share.

One would be inclined to think that with all the tales of horrific ill fate, Larry would wrap himself in cotton wool to avoid any and all situations for disaster. However, this could not be further from the truth. Lawrence Deacon Bailey was a good boy who always went out of his way to assist others. He paid no mind to how badly things might turn out for him and boy it did sometimes end badly for him...

Like the time their beloved family cat, Charlotte got stuck up a tree. The poor feline was petrified and could not see her way free from the tangled branches of the old Oak tree. She was screaming and screeching, but there seemed to be nobody to hear her pleas for help. No one that is, except Larry who was already half-way up the tree when his mother frantically started shrieking for her son to β€œcome down from that tree, this instant!”

Needless to say, her words fell on deaf ears, and Larry was heading up that tree at the speed of knots. Even the cat thought it a bad idea that her rescuer should be the one and only, Luckless Larry. But this young man was not going to be deterred by the possibility (some might call it a certainty) of impending doom.

With pure grit and sheer determination Larry climbed higher and higher up the tree. As the boy approached the very top of the tree, the cat's eyes got bigger and his mother's frantic screams got louder. There was no turning back now though, not that Larry had any intention of doing so.

A crowd started gathering below the tree, expecting the worst. To everyone's astonishment, the young man managed to grab the cat, who was surprisingly content with being carried to safety. Slowly, Larry proceeded down the tree, carefully checking his grip and footing on every branch. When he finally set foot on the ground, he was met by a stunned silence. Did he finally manage to free himself from his hazardous fate? Has he managed to shake the shackles of his constant misfortune?

It certainly seemed to be the case. He handed the cat to his mom, she stared at him in disbelief, his brother Barry's jaw dropping to the floor... Someone had to pinch them, surely they were dreaming – Larry came through this episode without a scratch. This was a good day. As the family turned to walk to their house, they heard a strange buzzing sound. Where was it coming from? Suddenly Barry saw it – two giant wasps had managed to get stuck in the hooded part of Larry's sweater. Before anyone knew what was happening the wasps started attacking poor Larry and was stinging him, and only him repeatedly.

Now as if this wasn't enough, Larry was super allergic to bee and wasp stings. In a matter of seconds, the boy started swelling and his face went bright pink. By the time his father stopped at the emergency room, Larry was having trouble breathing and his eyes were swollen shut. He was rushed to the emergency room where he was given adrenaline to alleviate the allergic reaction. Thankfully they were in time and before long, Larry was resembling himself again.

Poor Larry had so hoped that his bad luck had subsided, but the feeling was short-lived. It was back to basics for Barry's twin and everyone close to him. Sad as it was, his parents were of the opinion that safe is being far better than sorry. The boy was right back to where he started – being extra careful and vigilant about what and how he did things...

One day the young man was walking along the banks of a river close to his home, as he does on his way back from school. This day though his brother was not at his side, as Barry had to sit detention for mouthing-off to a teacher. Larry was playing a game on his mobile phone and not paying close attention to where he was going. Now, for any other child, this would be nothing to be alarmed at, but someone with Larry's luck should know better that to tempt fate.

As it happened, his foot slipped, he stumbled forward and tripped over a root of a tree. He only fell a few centimetres, but is was enough to cause him to fracture an leg. He was sad and hurt, but not all surprised. He hobbled home, explained to his mom what had happened, hopped to the car and went straight to the emergency room to get x-rays. His broken bone received a cast and he was to keep off the foot for two days.

Unfortunately Larry's leg wasn't the only thing that broke that day, his spirit was taking a beating too. His mom decided that he could stay home form school and do whatever he wanted to. He could have candy all day, watch movies all night and play games on his mobile phone whenever he wanted to. Barry complained about this thought it was particularly unfair, but their mom only had to give Barry one stern look to get him back on track.

Barry's mood was lifted somewhat by the news that they were getting pizza for lunch at school. Their had been a new lunch lady appointed and she thought it a good idea to treat the kids on her first day. The pizza looked delicious and they kids devoured every last crumb. Everyone had feasted on this yummy pizza and nobody missed a slice. When Barry's friend Clive started complaining of a stomach ache, they boys laughed and just put it down to Clive having so many slices of pizza.

Not a sole was laughing when that very same Clive started vomiting everywhere about five minutes later. Then Stacy started tossing her cookies too, then Barry was also made to see his lunch... Something was terribly wrong and one-by-one the kids started puking their guts out. There was major confusion as the kids' parents had to be called to fetch them. The parents wanted answers and Linda, the lunch lady had no answers to give... It was huge mess... literally.

After some closer inspection, it came to light that the pizza base was made from expired tomato paste and that this caused all the kids in the entire school contracted food poisoning. Everyone, that is, except fro Larry, who was at home and nowhere near the contaminated pizza. When Barry told his family the story, it became clear as day... sometimes breaking a leg can actually bring good luck.

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