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Where did the word leotard come from?
Many common phrases stem from real-life names. Jules Léotard was a French trapeze artist of the mid-1800s. His memoirs describe how Jules' parents hung him from a trapeze as a baby to keep him from crying (his father was a gymnastics teacher). Young Jules passed his exams and was destined for a career in law but, at the age of 18, he began to work seriously in the gymnasium and to experiment with trapeze bars above the swimming pool. Monsieur Léotard invented the flying trapeze circus act in 1859 (for the Cirque Napoleon) and was the first to perform a somersault in midair. Léotard's act was called La Course aux Trapèze and consisted of two separate trapezes which he would set swinging, and then jump from one trapeze to the other. His popularity and success led to the song written about him, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." Monsieur Léotard wore a tight-fitting outfit in his performances and it, too, became famous, though it is not recorded in print until 1920. He died in 1870 upon contracting smallpox in his early 30s (or late 20s, as his birthdate is disputed).