For the last 8 months I’ve been teaching English to a Russian student here in Leicester. And even though I realise it’s a bit weird to teach English in England if you’re not English I guess it’s justified because my student is a beginner and she might have struggled with a native speaker.
A couple of weeks ago I was explaining the phrase ‘good luck‘ to her, but then I suddenly realised there was also ‘bad luck‘ and I felt like I had to tell her that too, perhaps adding to her ever growing confusion about the English language. In Russian you can only have luck that is good (“удача”), and bad luck is something completely different.
This got me thinking about other luck-related phrases that I’ve heard over the last couple of years here, so I thought I’d bring them under one roof, so to speak. This list is by no means exhaustive and mostly features the expressions that I’ve personally come across:
- Seven years bad luck
I heard this when a lady in a beauty salon accidentally stepped on her hand-held mirror. Apparently, this is what you say when you break a mirror. As far as I remember, in Russian it’s not a good thing either and you say that it brings bad luck.
- Third time lucky. This is said when you’ve failed to do something twice and are expected to succeed or succeeded the third time.
The very first occasion when I heard it was perhaps the most memorable – I was going to join a gym and had to fill out a couple of forms. The first two times I honestly wrote something about my health that would’ve made it impossible for me to join, so I had to fill it in the third time. This was when I heard ‘Third time lucky’ from the ever so patient manager.
- To take pot luck means to choose something when you do not know what you will get and can only hope that it will be good
I stumbled upon a pertinent example when I was reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: ‘She was from a good family fallen upon hard times, and she’d had to take pot luck in the way of a husband’
- Happy-go-lucky person is someone who tends not to worry about things.
There’s a film Happy-Go-Lucky, which is probably one of the best films I’ve seen in the past 4-5 years, about a quintessential happy-go-lucky person (maybe just a little bit crazy).
- Beginner’s luck is unusual success that you have when you start doing something new (MacMillan Dictionary).
This is something my husband definitely has – he is in the habit of winning in pretty much any new sport he tries. Come to think of it, there’s also an exactly the same phrase in Russian – “новичкам везет”.