To hit a/the wall

Posted by R. Berg on October 06, 2001

In Reply to: To hit a/the wall posted by Ortin on October 06, 2001

: : : : Sometimes you hear someone say, or you read, "then he hit a wall" --- meaning what exactly?

: : : Runners "hit a wall." It's a point where the runner is exhausted and in pain. But if she keeps running, the runner can go past this point. "Get a second wind."

: : : Am I right sports fans? I have never experienced this. I've never run anywhere in my life and don't plan to.

: : Your phrase is also used to indicate a dead end or obstruction as in "The detectives looked at all the leads in the case and then they hit a wall".

: Well, aren't these two different things? A wall you can get beyond if you try, and one you cannot? Which does the phrase usually mean?

My opinion: The phrase simply identifies something as an obstacle without implying either that the obstacle can be surmounted somehow or that it cannot. The runner may or may not push harder and go through the wall. In a crime novel, if we are told that the detectives hit a wall, we know their investigation looks hopeless now, but we can be sure a crack will open in the wall sometime before the last chapter.