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The George Washington story and also that of painters of his time who charged prices according to the variety of limbs castle were an alleged to paint appears to it is in inconsistent. A more credible etymology is the following:
The expression “to expense an arm and a leg” is a an allegory about valuable body parts. The comparable line “I’d offer my right arm…” dates from the beforehand 1600s.
The phrase “an arm and a leg” rattled off the tongue easily before itwas used to signify an exorbitant price. After ~ the American polite War,Congress spreading a special pension for soldiers who had lost both anarm and a leg. The phrase “cost one arm and also a leg” begins to crop up innewspaper archives in 1901, introduce to mishaps and war injuries.In 1949, it reflects up in the figurative sense.
The lengthy Beach elevation reported, "Food editor Beulah Karney has … concepts for thehomemaker who wants to speak "Merry Christmas" and not have actually it price anarm and a leg."
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answered january 5 in ~ 18:56
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Christine Ammer, American Heritage dictionary of Idioms, 2nd edition 2013) has actually this pertinent entry:
arm and a leg one exorbitant quantity of money, together in These resort hotels fee an arm and also a leg for a decent meal, or Fixing the auto is walking to cost an arm and also a leg. Follow to Eric Partridge, this hyperbolic idiom, i m sorry is constantly used in conjunction v verbs such as "cost," "charge," or "pay," an became widely known from the 1930s on, probably came native the 19th-century American criminal slang phrase, if that takes a leg (that is, even at the cost of a leg), come express desperate determination.
An Elephind search for "cost an arm and a leg" turns up this match from "Rex Beach, Novelist, through Sight revived by Bride"s Care, will certainly Take brand-new Wife on new Hunt because that Coveted "Blue" Bear" in the New York evening World (September 12, 1908):
Then, nursed back to life by the same small wife who had unconsciously set you revolving in a whirlwind the adventure and also peril, would you still urge that were there but one the those blue bears in visibility you would certainly yet bring it home for that tiny blue room, though it cost an arm and also a leg as well as the eye?
The usage of "cost one arm and a leg" her shows up to be literal meaning (but exaggerated), fairly than a figurative means of saying "cost a most money." Nevertheless, it argues that "cost one arm and also a leg" was currently idiomatic in the U.S. In 1908.
The oldest complement I could find for "cost an arm and a leg" in a purely figurative feeling is native "Record Accessories," in The record Changer, volume 7 (February 1948)
The best needle on the industry for part time now has actually been the diamond point. However, it had one significant drawback. It cost an arm and also a leg, running about $50. The Walco people, realizing the the diamond, because of its excessive hardness and highly refined surface, walk the least damage to document surfaces, strove for numerous years to devise a cheaper path in which to polishing the precious stones. They have finally come out with a diamond point needle i beg your pardon sells for about one 4 minutes 1 of the ahead one. Now it only prices $12.50. This is tho a many hay yet one cannot suppose the price ever to come under much listed below this. It"s pretty simple to chip a sapphire yet one would need to really go some to do any kind of damage at all to one of these babies. Expensive however good.
Another instance, in the may 1948 problem of the same publication, reads as follows:
Several readers have actually written requesting that us mail lock their copies either very first class or airmail. I really don"t know how to answer this requests. Very first of every it costs an arm and also a leg to letter a publishing these classes given that the weight varies between 5 and 8 ounces. You fellows would need to pay it , the course. Is it worth it come you to execute that? My very own feeling on the subject is that uneven all copies were yielded in that way it would offer an unfair benefit to the fellows who spend the extra postage money.
I shown the days of both instances at the net Archive.
Also, native an unidentified advertisement—possibly for Hoffman Motorcycles—in American Bicyclist and also Motorcyclist, volume 71, web page 63 (1950):
Distributors and also dealers space invited to write us for particulars. Countless customers have been hoping for a top quality motor task that would not cost "an arm and also a leg."
Hoffman manufactured motorcycles native 1948 to 1954. A Hathi Trust search confirms the volume 71 of American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist was released in 1950.
In both instances indigenous 1948 and also in the circumstances from 1950, the "arm and also a leg" room purely metaphorical.
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It complies with that "cost an arm and a leg" has been in use in the United states in an exaggerated yet literal sense since at the very least 1908, and also in a figurative sense (meaning "expensive") due to the fact that at least 1948.