The Electric Commentary

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Disappointing Fact of the Day

"Balls to the wall" isn't what it sounds like:

Somewhat disappointingly, it has nothing to do with hammers, nails, and a particularly gruesome way of treating an enemy. The expression comes from the world of military aviation. In many planes, control sticks are topped with a ball-shaped grip. One such control is the throttle—to get maximum power you push it all the way forward, to the front of the cockpit, or firewall (so-called because it prevents an engine fire from reaching the rest of the plane). Another control is the joystick—pushing it forward sends a plane into a dive. So, literally pushing the balls to the (fire)wall would put a plane into a maximum-speed dive, and figuratively going balls to the wall is doing something all-out, with maximum effort. The phrase is essentially the aeronautical equivalent of the automotive "pedal to the metal."

Oh well.


  • Fascinating. I had always assumed the "balls" referred to testicles, but I had never really understood the phrase. Thanks for clearing it up.

    By Blogger MDS, at 10:25 AM  

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