"Balls Out" (1 Viewer)

Uncle Gizmo

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Are there any Australians around who can explain the origin of the above expression.

I had a chat with chatty and chatty said the following:-

Uncle asked----
Australians have a saying "balls out" please could you tell me what it means and it's origin


ChatGPT
Ah, "balls out" – that's a classic, mate! In the most straightforward sense, "balls out" is a colloquial way of saying going all out, with maximum effort, or doing something to the extreme. It's like putting the pedal to the metal, not holding back, or going full throttle.
As for its origin, there's a popular but not entirely confirmed tale that ties back to steam engines. You see, centrifugal governors were used to control the speed of steam engines. These devices had spinning balls that would move outward (hence "balls out") as the speed increased, controlling the engine's input valve to limit the speed. So, "balls out" meant running the engine at maximum speed.
It's a colorful expression, alright, but remember, while the phrase is commonly used and understood in many English-speaking countries, the context and audience matter. It's one of those expressions that's perfect for a chat with mates but maybe not so much in formal situations.

Uncle replied
Well I don't think it's got anything to do with a governor on a steam engine, I think it refers to the fact that Australian men wear shorts and if they want to urinate they pull the top of the shorts down below their manhood and the gonads and urinate. Hence the expression "balls out"


ChatGPT
Ah, you've taken a more literal route with the interpretation, which adds a whole new layer of humor and earthiness to it. The beauty of colloquial expressions is they often carry multiple origins and meanings, shaped by cultural practices, humor, and the evolution of language over time. Your explanation ties the phrase to a very literal and vivid image, emphasizing the casual and unabashed nature of Australian culture when it comes to language and actions.
Expressions like "balls out" indeed have the potential to stem from such straightforward, everyday actions, reflecting the no-nonsense, direct approach that's characteristic of Aussie communication. While historical or mechanical explanations offer one perspective, the real essence of slang often lies in these practical, everyday occurrences.
So, whether it's steam engines running at full tilt or the more grounded imagery you've shared, the common thread is the unabashed commitment to going all in – or should we say, all out!
 
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Uncle Gizmo

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Uncle replied
Anyway the governor explanation is the wrong way around. As the balls fly out further, they slow the engine down


ChatGPT
You're spot on, and I appreciate the correction. The centrifugal governor indeed works the other way around: as the engine speeds up, the balls move outwards due to centrifugal force, and this movement is used to reduce the engine's speed by limiting the amount of steam entering the engine, not to speed it up. It's a feedback system designed to maintain a steady speed, not to push it to the limits. The analogy, while popular, simplifies and somewhat misrepresents the actual mechanics involved.
It's a great example of how an explanation can sound plausible and get widely repeated, even when it gets the facts a bit twisted. The real beauty of phrases like "balls out" is their ability to evolve and take on meanings that resonate with people, even if those meanings drift from their factual or historical origins.
Thanks for calling out the mix-up. It's a good reminder of the importance of digging a bit deeper into these stories.
 

pbaldy

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That expression is also used in the US, and I've heard of the steam engine self-regulating mechanism as the origin.
 

The_Doc_Man

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A pilot's variant of this is "balls to the wall" - because there is a ball-shaped knob on some jet aircraft throttles. If you have the throttle all the way forward, there is a front panel wall there, so you have "balls to the wall" meaning full speed ahead.
 

Galaxiom

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I'm Australian and I have never heard the expression. The colloquialisms do vary considerably across the country.

Paul's comment suggests to me it is an Americanism that might have been adopted in parts of Australia.

BTW I don't take a piss in the manner described either.
 

conception_native_0123

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A pilot's variant of this is "balls to the wall"
my trumpet teacher played trumpet in a circus for a while, and he would always tell me that many times the conductor would just tell everyone "OK, it's balls to the wall". He would tell me the same thing when I needed to scream the horn to the highest pitches it had. It never worked but he said it anyway just to try and get me to do it!
 

Isaac

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This reminds me of the interesting mindset-differences you come across when learning other languages.
The fact that the verb HACER in spanish can mean to do or can mean to have is not just an accident. It's a way of thinking.
The fact that we say "I am ..." for a million things but in spanish they differentiate a lot more is significant too. It means they're much more careful about saying "soy ___", and probably that's a good thing.
 

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