Examples of brick wall
Examples of brick wall
Where does brick wall come from?
While the building technology dates back many millennia, brick wall has referred to a literal wall made of bricks in the written record of the English language since at least the 1400s.
By the 1690s, a brick wall was already figuring in the saying running one’s head against a brick wall, which now commonly goes by banging one’s head against a brick wall. The expression likens a thwarted or futile goal to the immovability of a brick wall. As tennis great John McEnroe memorably said: “The important thing is to learn a lesson every time you lose. Life is a learning process and you have to try to learn what’s best for you. Let me tell you, life is not fun when you’re banging your head against a brick wall all the time.”
By the 1880s, brick wall was a figure of speech for an effort considered impassable or impossible—as well as an unresponsive or uncaring person (e.g., talking to a brick wall). Writer Oscar Wilde famously wrote: “I like talking to a brick wall—it’s the only thing in the world that never contradicts me!”
Come the early 20th century, brick wall was widespread enough to be considered a cliché for any challenging barrier or opposing force. The metaphorical brick wall remains a common, and still often useful and powerful, metaphor. A 2016 parenting memoir about raising a child with autism took Brick Wall as its title, for instance, as did a 2011 film about two women who are transgender.
Who uses brick wall?
Brick wall is extensively used in speech and writing in a range of metaphorical constructions. As noted, some authors and editors may look down upon uses of brick wall as clichés in formal writing.
We may say we hit a brick wall when we’ve run out of money or energy for a project. Or, if a loved one isn’t acknowledging our feelings, we may say it’s like talking to a brick wall. In these uses, brick wall may not indicate final defeat but rather extreme frustration or exasperation.
To see through a brick wall is “to be especially perceptive” and to run through a brick wall is “to be extremely powerful or rebellious.”
The expression to hit a brick wall is so familiar that it’s inspired its own verb form, evidenced since at least the early 2010s: to brick-wall, or “to get as far as one can go in pursuing some goal.”
These brick walls are not to be confused with British rock band Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit songs popularly known as “Another Brick in the Wall,” which are about isolation, detachment, and anonymity.