Have you ever gone up the wall? What or who drove you up the wall? Tim Bowen lays down some hardcore idioms.

‘Germany had been unbeaten in the group stages and easily beat the Greeks in the quarter-final but they finally hit the wall in the semi-final when they came up against an inspired Italian side’. In this sense, the team reached the point where they were physically or mentally unable to make further progress. Marathon runners often hit the wall after 35 or so kilometres of the 42-kilometre race.

If you come up against a brick wall or run into a brick wall, you reach a point in a process where you encounter problems that seem impossible to solve, as in ‘We’ve been trying to find a way round the planning regulations but I’m afraid we’ve come up against a brick wall’.

If a business goes to the wall, it fails or goes bankrupt, as in ‘No-one was surprised when the company finally went to the wall’, but if you go up the wall, you get very angry, as in ‘He went up the wall when he heard how much he would have to pay for the damage to his neighbour’s car’. If something drives you up the wall, it annoys you intensely, as in ‘Can you turn that music down? It’s driving me up the wall!’

If someone does not listen or react when you say something to them, you can say that it is like talking to a brick wall, as in ‘I’ve tried to discuss it with him but it’s like talking to a brick wall’.

The expression these four walls is used to talk about the room that you are in, as in ‘This is strictly confidential. It mustn’t go beyond these four walls’.