Stella E. O. Tagnin –

Here’s the second leg of my leg post. Sorry for taking so long…

Let’s look at leg preceded by an adjective. From the list below we are only going to deal with those adjectives that might be problematic – but even so they aren’t too problematic!

 CONTEXT FREQ
1  RIGHT 1259
2  LEFT 1229
3  BROKEN 372
4  LOWER 240
5  OTHER 228
6  FRONT 127
7  HIND 121
8  BAD 104
9  PROSTHETIC 87
10  WOODEN 85
11  FINAL 80
12  GOOD 78
13  REAR 70
14  LONG 58
15  INJURED 48
16  ARTIFICIAL 46
17  UPPER 45
18  BARE 41
19  NEW 39
20  OPPOSITE 31

The following examples and the illustrations are enough to make the meaning clear, aren’t they?

 

  • That helps to prevent the blood from pooling in your lower leg and cuts down on your risk of suffering from a serious blood clot.
  • The boy was clutching his bloodied lower leg and howling.
  • The lower leg injury suffered by Cutler is the least of Denver’s problems.

 

LEG

  • If you look at his left hind leg, you’ll see the bow in his tendon.
  • Then he reached out and stabbed at the rat’s hind leg.
  • Her other hind leg still wouldn’t do what she wanted.

 

  • Soon they were at the rear leg of one of the monsters.
  • We have a Russian tortoise that did the same thing, even though she has just a stump of a left rear leg (we call her Stumpy).
  • [The dog] walked away to sit off to the side licking her left rear leg where she had a small cut.

 

hind legs

Hind legs

We talked about this meaning above, remember?

 

  • What do you think was the key to winning that final leg?
  • The last thing I wanted to do was spend the final leg of our car ride playing the Probing Questions game.
  • Our top story this hour: The final leg of a long journey.
  • When I ran my first marathon last year, she ran the final leg with me to get me over the finish line.

 

Now, let’s move to verbal collocations

 CONTEXT FREQ
1  WAS 592
2  IS 450
3  HAD 258
4  BROKE 215
5  LOST 186
6  BREAK 158
7  HAVE 145
8  BROKEN 130
9  ‘S 117
10  HAS 117
11  LIFT 102
12  GET 101
13  PULLING 100
14  BENT 89
15  EXTEND 86
16  ARE 85
17  RAISE 80
18  AMPUTATED 79
19  BE 78
20  DO 77

 

The most common seems to be to break a leg:

 

  • Arriving in France with the 1st Division, he broke a leg when his horse slipped in the mud and fell on him.
  • A single slip and I could easily break a leg… or my skull.
  • My left leg was broken in three places.

 

Interestingly, Break a leg! is a formula used to wish an actor or actress good luck:

 

  • “I won’t say break a leg, sweetheart, because that’s the last thing we need. But good luck.”
  • “Congratulations on the new show. Break a leg.”

 

Here are a few other verbal collocations

 

  • Dos Sopheap, a young woman from Battambang Province, lost her leg to a mine when she was six years old.
  • In 2002, I was in a car accident and lost my leg.

 

Quite a few have to do with leg movement:

 

  • One leg was bent at the knee and propped behind her,
  • Extend leg only, keeping hands on hips.
  • Bend left knee and extend right leg in front of you
  • Raise leg straight up behind you, then lower.

 

.As you’ll see from the examples below, lift a leg can have two meanings,  a literal one and a metaphorical one: Here are the examples for the literal one:

 

  • Every time I see our guide lift his leg to scale a rock, I’m filled with dread.
  • Lift top leg 6 inches off bottom leg, so top leg is hovering in the air.

 

image

Take a look at the following examples. In the first one, the meaning of lift a leg is quite literal and even explained (urinate). In the other two the ‘meaning’ is expressed by the ‘movement’ only:

 

  • He would spring out on all fours, lift his leg, and urinate with great force on the young lady’s fine evening frock.
  • An old man was walking his Maltese and stopped so the dog could lift its leg on the green strip of grass near the curb.
  • Looking up the trail, she saw each of the wolves stop to lift a leg on a pile of meat. Even the females did so, which was odd.

 

But they can also refer humans, though it’s certainly not a very nice expression in that case!!!

 

  • … all these people who just wanted to come lift a leg and pee in his yard.

 

  • “Go lift a leg, then you can come back here and taste some of the best food Topeka has to offer! We’ve put on one hell of a spread!”

 

 

The following collocation is cognate with Portuguese:

 

  • Doctors amputated his leg below the knee.
  • In 2000, Young had to have a leg amputated because of a vascular condition.

 

Let’s finish with a few idiomatic meanings. The next one means to get an advantage or a boost:

 

  • She’s sick of being a fashion assistant, and Sara never lets her get a leg up. All Courtney does is lug around gowns.
  • That’s exactly why he came into the office early every morning. It gave him a chance to get a leg up on the day before the cloud of chummy and chirpy voices descended around him.
  • Often it would take only a very little bit of money (by U.S. standards) to allow poor people to get a leg up on their financial difficulties.

 

This is actually a well-known idiomatic expression:

 

  • And they said it would cost an arm and a leg to fix anything so antiquated.
  • It cost an arm and a leg every year to send him there.
  • Dinner and a show can cost an arm and a leg these days.

 

12

 

In Brazilian Portuguese, the idiomatic expression above resorts to another part of the body that was discussed in a previous post. Can you guess which one it is?

 

And here is the last one for today:

 

  • B can’t tell whether his father is serious or pulling his leg.
  • “I’m pulling your leg, man.” Alonso laughed. “Lighten up.”
  • I thought my sister had either gone nuts or was pulling my leg.

 

stoppulling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks folks, hope to be back soon!

 

[1] As usual, all our examples are taken from the Corpus of Contemporary American English – COCA (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/) with only minor changes when necessary to make the meaning clearer.

 

Stella E. O. Tagnin
Stella E. O. Tagnin professora associada do Departamento de Letras Modernas, FFLCH, da USP. Embora aposentada, continua orientando em nível de pós-graduação nas áreas de Tradução, Terminologia, Ensino e Aprendizagem, sempre com base na Lingüística de Corpus. É coordenadora do Projeto CoMET.e-mail: seotagni@usp.br.