“I couldn’t believe the price! It cost an arm and a leg!”
We’ve all uttered that phrase at one time or another. But how did we determine that unit of measurement?
According to (a false) legend, “an arm and a leg” has an artistic origin. Back in the day, artists charged more money to paint full-body portraits. Hence, it cost more to have “an arm and a leg” in the painting.
In reality, the phrase started after World War II and has grim roots. Many servicemen paid a high price while fighting for our country — they lost limbs.
The French have a similar phrase that translates to “it costs the eyes from the head.” A Bulgarian equivalent translates to “it costs one’s mother and father.”