I was reading an article about Stanislav Petrov, the man who saved the world in 1983 (via hopping from blog to blog, and hence unable to provide a reference), when I saw this sentence: "I was not sweating," Petrov said, "but I felt very weak in my legs. Like our Russian saying goes, I had legs of cotton." We have this saying in French too (avoir les jambes en coton), meaning that you’re so scared that you legs get all wobbly. I can’t think of any other way of expressing it in English, can anyone help?
I always like finding "sister expressions" in other languages; it prompts me to wonder why they exist in some but not others. Was it all due to, say, one French person who went to visit the Russian court all those years ago, translated it literally into Russian, which delighted the locals so much that they started using it, and now, years and years later, it is a common expression in Russian? Or is it just a coincidence that the French and the Russians use the same image to express the same feeling? If I start saying "I have legs of cotton" over and over for the next few years, and manage to contaminate enough English speakers, is there any chance that this expression will end up being adopted in English?