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"Balls to the wall" origin

Posted by Tobie Openshaw on June 08, 2005

Question: For the phrase "balls to the wall", the following is offered on these pages: [quote]Not related to testicles as you might think. There's no definitive source for this phrase, although the most likely appears to be that it has a WWII military origin and that the balls are the knobs on aircraft joy sticks. Pushing them as far as they can go, i.e. against the wall of the plane, caused it to go flat out.[end quote]

I can't say for sure if this is the correct origin, although it certainly sounds plausible. However, I would like to point out a few technical errors in this explanation. The balls in question are on the THROTTLE/s which indeed makes the aircraft go faster. The JOYSTICK (together with the rudder pedals) is used to keep the plane straight and level, or to control its direction up and down and banking left and right. The "wall" in question is the FIREWALL, which seals off the engine compartment from the cockpit. So yes, "balls to the wall" would mean pushing the throttles right up against the firewall. However, in all the WWII-era aviation books I have read, I never came accross that term. The closest was, if pilots put on full throttle, they would say "I firewalled it".

My two pence/cents

Tobie Openshaw

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