Talk:balls to the wall
To define "balls to the wall" as "to carry out an action as fast as possbile" suggests that the expression is used as a verb. I challenge anyone to find a single occurrence of "balls to the wall" being used as a verb. Maybe the person who so defined it meant to define "balls to the wall" simply as equivalent to "as fast as possible", so that it is an adverbial phrase. That's better. But the expression, I think, is used to indicate not just speed, but also force; so that in some cases it means "as forceful as possible". At any rate, the definition needs fixing. Maybe the following link is helpful: http://www.slate.com/id/2136001/ Isokrates 13:37, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
- Idiomatic phrases are very flexible in how they are used - which would explain the heading "Idiom" as opposed to say, "Adverb" or "Verb". Please note that none of the headings "Adverbial", "Adverbial phrase" or even "Adverbial idiom" are valid Wiktionary headings. They are not particularly useful to an English reader, perhaps not to anyone except professional linguists. While using more complicated headings may convey the contributor's intelligence (and sometimes indeed, be more technically accurate) the detrimental effect of alienating readers (some who are only learning English) is a strong reason to avoid such headings.
- The definition itself, however, could use some rewording, as you've indicated. --Connel MacKenzie 20:34, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
It is possible this phrase was coined before or during World War Two by American aircraft pilots. The throttle levers (accelerators) in the aircraft had round tops that looked like balls. To put the "balls to the wall" (the wall being the firewall in the aircraft) was to advance the levers all the way forward, making the aircraft fly as fast as possible. It now means to carry out an action as quickly as possible.
Alternatively, the phrase may come from the days of stationary steam engines. The governor on these engines consisted of two iron balls mounted on a rotating pivot that was geared to the engine. This pivot was connected to the steam valve that acted as the throttle. As the engine's speed increased, centrifugal force caused the balls to move outward on the pivots causing the valve to close and slow the motor down. Conversely, if the engine slowed down, the balls dropped lower, which opened the throttle. If the engine was running at maximum speed, the balls would not be "to the wall" per se, but they would be at their maximum extension or "running balls out".
Another potential etymology is derived from the sexual practice called a 'glory hole', found in both homosexual and heterosexual practice, and featured in military subcultures among others. In a 'glory hole', a receptive partner who wishes to remain anonymous presents their vagina, mouth, or anus to the penetrating partner by pressing it against a wall in which a hole has been cut out. The penetrating partner can thus be 'balls' (testicles) to the wall, yielding the same inferential results - fully committed, as far forward/fast/thoroughly as possible.