Break all your legs.

Hailey: Today we’re performing our play in front of the school.

me:  McBeth?

Hailey:  MOM.  YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY THAT WORD.

me:  Which word?  McBeth?

Hailey:  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  It’s considered very bad luck to say the name of that play.  It’s worse than saying “Good luck.”  You’re supposed to say “The Scottish play.”

me:  But you say “McBeth” in the play over and over.  He’s like the main dude.

Hailey:  OMG STOP SAYING IT.  And it’s fine to say in the play.  Just not before.  And it’s especially unlucky to say the witches lines.

me:  YOU ARE LITERALLY THE WITCH IN MCBETH.  I’ve heard you practice those lines a dozen times.

Hailey: You’re just saying the name now to mess with me.

me: I am but I’m not spelling it correctly in my head so I don’t think it counts.  Also, I just looked it up and says that if you do say “McBeth” you can fix the curse by going outside the place where it’ll be preformed, spinning around three times, spitting and uttering a vulgar Shakespearean insult.

Hailey:  That can’t possibly be right.

me:  That’s what it says.  If you want I can spin and spit and yell profanity outside your school but I think I have to do it for each time I said “McBeth” so it’s going to take me awhile.  Worst exercise routine ever.

Hailey:  You know what?  It’s fine.

me:  I’ll do it.  “THOU ART A RUBBISH BANDWAGON!  ABORTIVE BULL’S-PIZZLE!  THOU LOATHSOME SCURVY DOG!”  Wait…that last one turned piratey.  I’ve gotta do some research.

Hailey: Please don’t do that in front of my school.

me:  I’m pretty good at it.

Hailey:  Weirdly so.

me:  Fine.  Break all your legs, my little witch.

Hailey:  Break all your arms, you big weirdo.

me:  Fair enough.

PS. I found a Shakespearean insult generator in case you’re looking to expand your repertoire:

121 thoughts on “Break all your legs.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. How did Shakespear ever even advertise his plays? I mean, if he couldn’t even say the name? My guess is that he told people to come and see some sex scenes where a guy delivers pizza and the housewife is really horny. That would work.

  2. Embarrassing your children is one of the great benefits of motherhood. You nailed it Jenny!

  3. I’m pretty sure you have to say McBeth in the theater. In front of a school just means you’ll get a B on your next English paper.

  4. You have to be IN the theater for saying Big Mac Beth to be bad luck. But we’re doing a play here at school, so I had to disguise the name as I type this. Tottering Shard-borne pumpion sounds kind of classy. Unless pumpion is something bad.

  5. It doesn’t count if you’re not spelling it right in your head. Mcbeth is like the fast version of Macbeth. I rule that the curse is lifted.

  6. I was an English Lit major and in the building where all of my English classes took place, we had a bulletin board with a daily “Shakespearean Insult” on it. It made me chuckle almost every time.

  7. I think you are totally safe because you said McBeth, not MacBeth, so you get a pass. No need for Shakespearean insult curse-breaking routine.

  8. We would have Shakespearean insult day when we started reading Macbeth. The ones the kids made up were always the best ones. And I have read Macbeth more times than I care to count. My cat is named Spot to placate my husband (Data— Star Trek) but also so I could say, “Out. Damn spot!”

  9. Horrible terrible luck to Hailey (right?) And I love the insult generator. My kid is going to think I’m pretty weird when he gets home from school. I can’t wait.

  10. Hey, I know this isn’t the right post for this comment, but I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do. I struggle with anxiety, and have fought all sorts of battles with it throughout my life. And today is the biggest battle I’ve ever lost. I travelled across the country to go to a grad school interview, but I couldn’t sleep the whole night before and I kept tossing my cookies and I didn’t make it. I’ve pushed through and won much bigger battles than this, and I’ve lost all sorts of little battles, but this is the biggest failure I’ve ever had with my anxiety. I’ve been lying in my bed in my hotel room reading through your blog some more because I knew it would make me feel better. Thanks for helping to foster a community where I can find others who understand, and I can share this little bit of my life. Though today is rough, I know I’ll keep pushing to come out on top in future battles. Thank you.

    (I am sending you so much love. You are not alone. You’ve got this. ~ Jenny)

  11. ‘S only unlucky inside the actual theatre where it will be performed. Otherwise fine. That’s what my dramatic arts doctorate cousin is telling me, anyhow.

  12. Theatre person here. She’s 100% right. You don’t say the lines or the title or name of the character (or Lady M’s full name) if you’re in a theatre UNLESS you are actually doing the play. It got so ingrained in me that I don’t say the name of The Scottish Play ever and Lady M is only ever Lady M. And if you do make that mistake, you go outside, spin three times, spit through your fingers, curse, and then ask to be let back in. At least that’s the whole thing I was taught.

  13. I can’t believe no one has yet said, “Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” The hags were my faves.

  14. I was a Theatre major in college, I studied Shakespeare. I had no idea this was a thing but I googled and sure enough….

  15. Oh man, when I worked in theater I had a whole theory built around “Break a Leg” which included summoning bad luck which somehow reversed into good luck. I had a little shrine that included South Park’s Kenny and pennies left tails up.

  16. Tell her too relax…the curse is only when you are actually in a theater or performance space. Most actors don’t say it anywhere though, just so they don’t slip up. And yes, I have made people go outside, spin, spot, and curse Bacchus they said it.

  17. I hate trying to type and make corrections on my phone. It just doesn’t work. Probably because someone said Macbeth…

  18. The play and it’s curse figures heavily into the plot of “Everything You Want Me to Be” by Mindy Mejia. I had never heard of it until this book.

  19. wow. Shakespeare really had a dirty mind. just glancing at the generator, i came up with “Thou cockered fully gorged malt worm” is it just me?…… shit.

  20. You’re fine. It’s only bad luck to say Macbeth in a theatre when it isn’t being staged. However, you should probably do Hailey a favor and do the spinning cursing spitting thing outside the school just in case. It’ll help build her character 😉

  21. to # 21 anonymous: YOU DID NOT LOSE. i see someone that traveled across the country, that tried to do battle & will continue to try to do battle. sounds pretty fucking amazing to me…

  22. What good are we as parents if we don’t embarrass our teenagers once in a while? I’ve long been in love with Shakespearean insults, since I had to study his works so much in college. Also, on a side note, his complete works bound into one large textbook make a really effective weapon when applied to the back of a cheating boyfriend’s head. Not that I would know anything about that. 🙂

  23. Dear Lovely Anonymous Person in post #21: I’m sending you a virtual hug of support. Many of us have been where you are. And we’re movin’, groovin’, and hanging in there, doing battle with anxiety one day at a time. You are loved.

  24. The Blackadder skit someone else embedded in the comments is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Scottish play. Break a leg.

  25. Someone brought up that list at band practice once. Band practice was never so unproductive before or since. Has your daughter always been superstitious?

  26. I love those curses! All organized in 3 columns so I can mix and match. I’ll have enough to insult darn near everyone I know or ever met, or ever hope to meet. Thanks!

  27. I’ve been to a matinee performance of that play, and at great risk of sounding like an uncultured cretin (or errant fool-born clotpole, if I am to use the insult generator)?

    Best. Nap. Ever.

  28. ….. my mother just used to tell me go break a bone when she put bad juju on a play I was preforming in… then again any mother who says that has an awesome sense of humor and should get a mother of the year award

  29. If you’re spelling it wrong in your head, McBeth becomes Irish and therefore the curse doesn’t apply. Or is much worse.

  30. Appropos of nothing, do you&she know that the superstition started along with a rumor that Shakespeare interviewed actual accused witches in jail –and so the lines the weird sisters are speaking include pieces of actual black magic spells.
    Or so I was told.

  31. So funny story which is slightly relevant, from a historical article I read: “Break a leg” did not actually mean “shatter your femur” back in ye Olde Dayes. Filler bands, performers, etc were hired to come in and perform for intros and intermissions during a play. Theatres would hire more than needed, in case of long delays (like if an actor genuinely broke a leg & the understudy had to prep). If the performer made it past side line of the stage – known as the LEG line – and onto the main stage, they got paid for the evening. If they didn’t make it past or “break” the line, they just got to hang out with a bunch of other performers back stage and maybe watch the show and went home broke. So when wishing each other “Break a leg” they actually meant “I hope you get paid tonight.”

    Given the difficulty artists of any time have in getting paid to do their thing, not much has changed, eh?

  32. #21 Be sure and let the interviewers know what happened. Be brief and honest, and they will probably give you another interview time.

  33. I bought my daughter a poster of Shakespearean insults for Christmas. Perfect gift for a theatre student with a potty-mouth (I’m so proud).

  34. “zyzzyva | March 1, 2018 at 11:22 am”

    Damnit, I even skimmed through to see if someone had posted that already.

  35. Huh I guess they haven’t gotten to the superstition portion of the curriculum at her school. Cause yeah, you’re right. There are several ways to cleanse yourself of the curse. (oh don’t forget that some believe the witches spells are real.) Hope she doesn’t whistle in the theater either!

  36. It’s like the WORST luck to say the name of THAT play indoors. I took theater in college and they did a one-act version of it for a spring competition. SOMEBODY in that theater said THAT name and not only did all the lights go out mysteriously but one of the set pieces broke in a weird way.

  37. Awww, I snoozed and loozed on posting the Blackadder connection! 😉

    I know that “THE PLAY” will go very well! Thanks for the Shakespearian Insult Chart. I plan to print it out and bring it with me the next time I get into the car.

  38. My daughter was in a play called “Don’t Say Macbeth,” all about the curse of that play and how people keep dying and theaters get burned down and general badness ensues. In order to do the play, they had to both SAY Macbeth over and over, AND explain exactly why you can never say it in a theater and how exactly to spit in the back alley if you should accidentally say it. So bizarre.

  39. I taught Art Education on a shoestring budget so I was a ‘dumpster diving pro’ especially when a tile, leather, photography, yarn etc. store was closing. One day in town I was going ‘diving’ at a photography store (with lots of frames in the dumpster) and my daughter begged me not to do it as it was near the main street. After we ‘discussed’ which had and glasses disguise I should wear? She exclaimed, “OKAY MOM, just don’t let anyone see you!!!” And, mission accomplished!

  40. Life isn’t worth a hoot if you can’t drive your children nuts ( or mortify then in front of the school).

  41. There are some truly bizarre film versions of Macbeth. My favourite is still the Roman Polanski version. Unsurprisingly, there’s nudity. Favourite line from a Macbeth spoof is when MacDuff says “Ach, Macbeth, yer arse is out the windee ” as he decapitates him and boots his head out the window. It’s a fun play.

  42. I know several yeasty weather-bitten flap-dragons and at LEAST one gorbellied ill-breeding flirt-gill. I mean, if I had a nickle for every….

  43. It’s bad luck to say Macbeth in a theatre. I think you’re ok in your own home, but y’know, better safe than sorry.

    Related: I once said it in a theatre and forgot to go outside and spin around. LATER THAT DAY, we had an incident with the rigging in said theatre, broke the hell out of the fly rails, and set off the fire system. Don’t mess with the curse.

  44. I was Lady The Scottish Play in 4th grade and had to say “Out, damn spot!” in front of real people and everything, on stage. I hadn’t yet grown into my potty mouth, so I was really nervous. Not anymore, though! I really want to be interviewed on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with that dude that asks you “the five questions” so I can tell the world, ON CAMERA, that my favorite curse word is actually a phrase: Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck!

    … I do also love your non-cursing, non-Shakespearean insults, too. I have proclaimed a small few number of people real dickwhistle douchecanoe twatjuices. Vulgar, but now with Zero Fucks! 🙂

  45. You are a sick and twisted individual. I am so glad I follow you! Lead on McDuff!!!!!!!!!!

  46. I would curse break this with with the classic ” Your mother was a hamster and you father smelt of Elderberries!”

  47. “Thou art a general offense and every man should beat thee.” Right after my divorce, I started every conversation with my Ex with these words. He didn’t understand it though so it was less fun than I thought it was going to be.

  48. Holy Shitsnacks! Which witch is she playing in Macbeth? I JUST did my last show as Hecate in my college theatre this past Sunday!!! It was sooooo much fun! My director told me (at the auditions) that normally the scene with Hecate’s monologue is cut from stage productions for time reasons, but I auditioned with it anyway and he decided to keep the scene. I am so grateful. It was a BLAST! And garnered us several spontaneous standing ovations. Which I had never seen happen during a college/community theatre production before. Please post Hailey’s part somewhere where I can watch it. Please, please please!

    We set Macbeth in a post-apocalyptic USA (unspecified time in the future) where men had basically destroyed the world as we know it and women had risen to power. So Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Banquo, pretty much all the principal characters were portrayed by females. Except the three weird sisters (witches one, two and three) who were played by males.

  49. I don’t know why my last comment (#78) posted as anonymous. Let me see if I can fix that…

    Susan Folk Dobie
    Louisburg College, Class of ’93

  50. Can someone make a ‘generator’ for the curse names? Like your Church of Bloggess titles? Thank you.

  51. Thou rank hasty-witted codpiece. Incase you can’t help yourself and say it 12 more times.

  52. To #21- my favorite journal exercise is to write a list of “what went right today.” It’s always longer than I expect it to be and it always leaves me smiling and feeling like I fit in the world.
    Look at your list of all the things you did right-getting the interview, booking the trip and hotel, getting there on time. Think of this as your reconnaissance maneuver. You had the courage to put yourself in the cockpit. Now you know the lay of the land. I have a feeling that your next interview, whether it’s with this school or another one, is going to feel a lot smoother.
    I’ve also read that raising arms above our heads as high as they’ll go in a V for Victory sends feel-good chemicals to the brain, so I full-commit do that too. It sure feels good and I usually give a shout or even just a big YES.

  53. Hailey’s right, but the curse is, it’s bad luck to say it in a theater, I think.
    We used to always call McDonald’s “the Scottish restaurant” when we didn’t want our kids knowing we were talking about McDonald’s (I don’t know why we would be talking about McDonalds, but we did). Now I wonder if it’s bad luck to mention the Scottish play in the Scottish restaurant, and if it mitigates the bad luck if you have a mouthful of fries when you do …

  54. To Anonymous #21- come join us at the “Bloggess Pals” facebook group on fb! Everyone there gives lots of hugs and “spoons” as needed. It is a safe place.

  55. For those of us who need to vent in re our president, add “orange-faced or orange-haired” to column 2 and have fun!

  56. Oh my goodness!!! Have you seen “The Dresser”?!? You have to see it! Then you can teach Hailey to say “Piss pots!” which I personally took great pleasure in as a kid!

    Break all the legs!!

  57. Omg that’s amazing. In 9th grade my teacher gave us that same sheet and our first assignment was to insult each other in Elizabethan. My friends and I still do it sometimes today.

  58. Haha your posts always crack me up, no matter what you write about. It’s a real gift of yours!

    I’d also like to invite you, and everyone reading this, to a challenge of ‘A week without social media’. It’s pretty self-explanatory I guess but you can check out my latest post and if you join me and decide to write about it, I’d be thrilled 🙂

  59. It definitely doesn’t count if you are spelling it differently in your head. Kind of like crossing your fingers when you are saying something that may only be a little true

  60. Re: comments 78 and 80:
    In changing a few lines to reflect the gender change, I was disappointed the Director wouldn’t allow me to change “beldams as you are” to “tiny pizzles without air.” I doth still protest. And it rhymed better as well.

    How did Hailey’s play go?

  61. I knew I wouldn’t be the first to go to the Blackadder piece but I love it so much I just had to pile on. If you haven’t already, watch the whole episode with Haley. She will get valuable acting lessons from those thespians!

  62. I thought it was only bad to say “McBeth” when you’re back stage. You’re also not supposed to hold hands for the entire reciting of the witches curse. That play has more superstition around it than any other I’ve heard of.

  63. Arg. Macbeth is 1000% NOT CURSED. Not cursed! There’s no record of any curse before the 1930s. Macbeth was written in 1606-ish. So like, what….the curse just waited ~300 years to show up? If you’re interested in the mythology surrounding the curse, check out Anecdotal Shakespeare by Paul Menzer (2015). It’s a fabulous (and funny!) read.

  64. I think the superstition only applies if you’re actually inside the theater. (At least that’s what I heard, so totally not fake news coming from a random internet commenter). Tell her you can say the “M” word outside of it. 🙂

  65. True story: In college someone was going on and on backstage about how he did not believe in superstition and he not only said MacBeth a bunch of times he wrote it on a blackboard. Then he literally fell through the stage.

  66. Hahaha! My daughter, Hannah, is in a lot of plays and has been reading “Macbeth” in class and she showed me the Shakespearean Insult generator. They had to use some of the insults in a paper they were working on. I sorta stole the list from her and it now hangs above my desk so that I can use those words whenever I’m upset!

  67. “Anointed sovereign of groans and sighs” is my personal favorite! I got it off the side of my Shakespearean insult mug

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