By Your Leave

The phrase, by your leave or “with permission”, is often used with the companion phrase, “Without so much as a…” as in “Without so much as a by your leave.”  When used in that way, it refers to something done without the expected permission. I came across it today while reading “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese for book club. I’ve heard the phrase before, but today it struck me as particularly elegant. While researching it I learned that it was sometimes misstated as “by your liege”. I also learned that there was a 1934 film called “By Your leave”, with this tantalizing description (according to IMDB, my source for all things TV and film): “In the midst of a mid-life crisis, Henry Smith convinces his wife, Ellen, that they should take separate one-week vacations, with no questions asked. He tries to sow some wild oats with a show girl and a paid escort, while she reacquaints herself with a childhood friend, now a famous explorer. Both get more than they bargained for.” Henry is played by none other than Frank Morgan, who you may recall from the title role in that Kansan favorite, “The Wizard of Oz.” Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, also played in “By Your Leave”, portraying a character called Whiffen. True.  And with that, I bid you goodbye, by your leave.

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