Posted by ESC on April 10, 2002
In Reply to: Cost an arm and a leg posted by R. Berg on April 10, 2002
: : : Can anyone please tell me where this phrase "Costs an arm and a leg" comes from? Not the menaing of it but where it originates. Thanks
: : Aprevious posting has some speculation:
: : http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/5/messages/1365.html
: Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases." says this phrase comes from the U.S. and that its probable origin is another phrase, "if it takes a leg!" About the latter phrase, he says "'Threat of a desperado, in search of revenge' (George P. Burnham, 'Memoirs of the United States Secret Service,' 1872): US underworld: c. 1850-1910. Even at the cost of a leg."
An arm and a leg - "A large sum of money; as if worth two of one's four limbs." From "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition). No origin is given.
There's another Brewer's entry that sounds like it might have a connection: Chance one's arm - "To run a risk in the hope of succeeding and obtaining a profit or advantage. The.phrase is of army origin. A non-commissioned officer who offends against service regulations risks demotion and the loss of a stripe from his sleeve."