What do these ‘ball’s mean?

The guy [truck driver] just yelled above the roar, and all I [had
hitchhiked the car]had to do was yell back, and we relaxed. And he
balled that thing clear to Iowa City and yelled me the funniest stories about how he got around the law in every town that had an
unfair speed limit, saying over and over again, “Them goddam cops
can’t put no flies on my ass!” Just as we rolled into Iowa City he saw
another truck coming behind us, and because he had to turn off at Iowa
City he blinked his tail lights at the other guy and slowed down for
me to jump out, which I did with my bag, and the other truck,
acknowledging this exchange, stopped for me, and once again, in the
twink of nothing, I was in another big high cab, all set to go
hundreds of miles across the night, and was I happy! And the new truck
driver was as crazy as the other and yelled just as much, and all I
had to do was lean back and roll on. Now I could see Denver looming
ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out here beneath the stars,
across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see
the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night.
He balled the jack and told stories for a couple of hours, then, at a town in Iowa where years later Dean and I were stopped on
suspicion in what looked like a stolen Cadillac, he slept a few hours
in the seat (Jack Kerouac, On the Road)

What are those bold-faced parts mean?


At first I wondered if this might be some kind of trucker lingo, but the phrase seems to be a bit dated.

The Urban Dictionary indicates that the phrase means to move real fast (particularly in a vehicle), and that fits the context. The best description of the phrase I found, though, was in a Word of the Day column:

The phrase ball the jack was popularized in 1913 by a ragtime song by Jim Burris and Chris Smith called "Ballin’ the Jack." This well-known song introduced a dance step of the same name that was the subject of the song, so one sense of ball the jack was ‘to perform (the dance step introduced in the song)’.

The usual sense of the expression, though, is ‘to go fast; make haste’, and this is often used in reference to railroad trains. This train-related use seems not to be the origin, however; jack ‘a railroad locomotive’ isn’t found outside this phrase until later. (The phrase is verbal, which is why I said that it doesn’t mean ‘with great haste’, but rather ‘to do something with great haste’.) A slightly different sense is ‘to work hard and efficiently’.

The ragtime song was published in 1913, and the phrase is not attested earlier. It is unknown whether the song actually coined the phrase or merely popularized an already existing one. Both the ‘go fast’ and the ‘work hard’ senses were common by the end of the 1910s.

I can see why Kerouac might have used the term when he was writing, but I’d avoid using it today. For one, it’s not well-known; I think most would give you a blank stare. For another, balling has other meanings nowadays, and I don’t think you’d want to be misunderstood.

Source : Link , Question Author : Listenever , Answer Author : J.R.

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