This is a phrase that actually means "To go as fast as possible" or "to push the limits". Very similar to "pedal to the metal". In fact, the origin of this prase apears to be a duplicate of that well known phrase.

In old trains (the mechanism is probably different in newer trains), the governor had two arms with metal ball weights. When the engine was "balls to the wall" (the weights extended fully), the engine was at the maximum speed that the governor would allow.

The phrase "balls to the wall," sounds as if it is a reference to a part of the male anatomy, which causes some confusion as to what it originally meant. However, the original usage has nothing to do with anatomy, but came rather from military aviation.

On an airplane, the handles controlling the throttle and the fuel mixture are often topped with ball-shaped grips, referred to by pilots as "balls." Pushing the balls forward, close to the front wall of the cockpit results in the highest possible speed.

This phrase is often thought to have come from railroad work, but there is no evidence to support that story. No use of the phrase is known to exist prior to the mid-1960s, and all the early cites are from military aviation.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.