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September 2022
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Arm and Hammer

Where did the expression “Cost you an arm and a leg” come from?

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2 guesses to Arm and Hammer


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  • anant

    I think it comes from the practice of portrait painters who charged very high rates for larger paintings that included the whole body (including arms and legs) when compared to a painting that merely had the head and shoulders, which was much cheaper

  • Dude

    Correct, Anant!

    In colonial days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression: “Okay, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.”

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