Posted by ESC on November 21, 2003
In Reply to: Climbing the walls posted by R. Berg on November 21, 2003
: : Hi! My mom said this is when someone is driven crazy. Is she right? Where did it come from? Thank you - Sax
: She's right in a way, but the phrase doesn't suggest literal craziness. A person climbing the walls is frustrated and nervous, in the sense of "antsy" or "fidgety." My reference books don't say how old the phrase is or where it originated.
I think it comes from seeing cats climb walls. I've seen my cats run, jump up high on a wall, and then do a backflip off. However, one of my references says:
CLIMBED THE WALL - "To be so restless, uneasy or distracted as to feel the need for some action or relief, even if the opportunity or the feat may be impossible. This usage is quite recent, but it derives from the days when soldiers really did climb the walls of fortification. That practice is reflected in one of the lesser-known books of the Old Testament (Joel 2:7): 'They shall run like mighty men: they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one of his ways, and they shall not break their ranks." From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).