Posted by Rude Boy on July 17, 2003
In Reply to: Balls-up (adult content) posted by ESC on July 16, 2003
: : : Can anyone confirm the nautical origin of this expression? This expression has been discussed, but I can't the following explanation in these archives: when a ship runs aground (a grave mistake with unfortunate consequences) it must display aloft three balls in a vertical line to warn other vessels of its predicament.
: : : Miles
: : Simpler than that - if a couple are having wild and raunchy sex, using their imaginations and different angles of approach - it is not impossible for a testicle to end up squashed where it should not. Crushed testicles, even in that context, are an unwelcome accident.
: : Alternatively, on the same lines, if one mistakenly attempts to insert the wrong item of male genitalia, that would be a balls-up.
: : Whilst English does have a rich naval tradition, there are often non-seafaring origins. (see "brass monkey"!)
: My imagination doesn't take me that far. I just had an image of a man falling heels over head. Here's something from the archives that gives a PG explanation for a similar phrase:
: BALLED UP; BALLS - "Dashing through the snow on a horsedrawn sled could be hazardous in days past. One difficulty was the balls of snow or ice that formed in the curve of a horse's shoe and often made a horse slip and fall. When horses did fall, especially a team of them, the resulting confusion and entanglement gave rise to the expression 'all balled up.' That is ALMOST everybody traces this term for helpless confusion to floundering horses. Mencken suggests a connection with the ejaculation 'balls!' , one for which little proof can be found. A second alternative liking the expression to balls of knitting yarn that the cat got at is a possibility, too. 'Balls' has been American slang for testicles since the early 1880s, and slang for guts or courage since about 1935."
No problem with that, but the expression there is "balled up" NOT "balls-up". I think a testicular reference is much more likely.
Remember - you can never go broke by underestimating public taste...
I usually think that a coarse explanation is much more likely than a refined one - it is in the nature of man to be coarse, but aspire to refinement.