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Arananthi November 10th, 2014 11:19pm

Etymology Monday! True or False: The phrase "Balls to the wall" comes from medieval-era warships, where cannonballs were stored in a central area, then brought 'to the wall' to prepare for combat.

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dxstap Bloomington, Indiana
11/10/14 6:00 pm

Sounded good so I said true.
I've been wrong before. Not going to change my answer. That seems like cheating.

MrChris80 California
11/10/14 5:50 pm

Love these questions! :)

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Zod Above Pugetropolis
11/10/14 5:17 pm

I hadn't heard the aviation explanation until recently, even after an entire career in aviation where we used the term "BTTW" often. I'd always known it as a variation of "balls out", meaning give me all you've got.

Zod Above Pugetropolis
11/10/14 5:18 pm

It works, sort of, in aviation, but not as well, since many throttle levers aren't topped by a ball. Most steam regulators are though. There's this:
bangshift.com/general-news/the-dirty-gearhead-phrase-that-isn-t-balls-to-the-wall/

Zod Above Pugetropolis
11/10/14 5:45 pm

There's a pretty great picture of a Spitfire cockpit (my favorite old-timey fighter), showing the balless style throttle that has been pretty common over the years:
www.shockwaveproductions.com/store/solo/spitfire/default_files/image013.gif

eLucidate writing
11/10/14 4:39 pm

0/2 Not balling.

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susanr Colorado
11/10/14 4:29 pm

False. It's from aviation. But I wouldn't have a clue about that if someone else hadn't done a poll about it some time ago, & I looked it up.

Arananthi Literal Ninja
11/10/14 4:21 pm

False! It's actually from aviation, where the 'balls' refer to the knobs on the top of control sticks, and putting the 'balls to the wall' meant you were accelerating as quickly as your plane would allow. tinyurl.com/pgdazcs

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Arananthi Literal Ninja
11/10/14 4:21 pm

It's essentially the aeronautic equivalent of "pedal to the medal."

DGroot America
11/10/14 4:32 pm

Yep, more specifically, the throttle and prop levers had balls on them. All the way forward, or toward the firewall, is as much power you can get. Good poll

firefly5 the verse
11/10/14 4:34 pm

this is great. I had no idea, and your offered explanation was very plausible. I said false, but it was only because I assumed the term came from some sort of acceleration process, which this wasn't.

firefly5 the verse
11/10/14 4:34 pm

also, are you considering doing this as a regular thing? I like it.

alynn Somewhere wonderful
11/10/14 4:47 pm

I'll second Firefly5's comment. I'd absolutely love this as a regular weekly poll.

firefly5 the verse
11/10/14 4:50 pm

I am a fan of regular poll series...

Arananthi Literal Ninja
11/10/14 5:50 pm

I was considering it. I'll set myself an alarm so I remember to keep it up. :)

alynn Somewhere wonderful
11/10/14 6:34 pm

Yay! I love this kind of stuff! Gives you so many conversation starters!

firefly5 the verse
11/10/14 7:15 pm

@Ara: word.