How to respond to expressions that test your patience

When someone drives you up the wall, they annoy or anger you extremely. While the origin of the idiom is not very clear, it probably comes from the phenomenon where, if you are extremely annoyed by someone, you might consider scaling a wall and jumping across it to escape.

By Author   |   Published: 26th Jun 2017   12:09 am Updated: 26th Jun 2017   12:19 am
annoyances

What annoys you? What do you find irritating and exasperating? How do you talk about these annoyances?

Drive (someone) up the wall

Examples

“Would you please stop that endless humming? It’s driving me up the wall!”

“He is a nice enough chap, but he thinks he is funny, and he keeps cracking these inane jokes that just drive me up the wall.”

“The constant drilling in the house next door is just driving me up the wall.”

Meanings and usage

When someone drives you up the wall, they annoy or anger you extremely. This is a great idiom that comes in handy when expressing anger or exasperation. While the origin of the idiom is not very clear, it probably comes from the phenomenon where, if you are extremely annoyed by someone, you might consider scaling a wall and jumping across it to escape.

In terms of usage, this idiom is best used to convey extreme annoyance or exasperation. If someone’s whistling annoys you, and you tell them to stop within two minutes, you are probably not annoyed enough to be ‘driven up the wall’. But if you told this person to stop the whistling or if, for some reason, you are forced to simply endure the whistling, then, after a long enough duration, you would be justified in claiming that the whistling was driving you up the wall.

Practice

Catch hold of a sibling or a friend, and see if you can drive them up the wall by being deliberately annoying for an hour or so. When they finally complain, tell them about how this was the opportunity to use the expression ‘drive up the wall.’ Do this one at your own risk though!

What are some things people commonly do that drive you up the wall? Reckless driving? Talking on the phone in a movie theater? Make a quick list.

Bug

Examples

“I’ve seen that actress in some other show. I’ve been trying to figure it out for two days, and it’s really bugging me.”

“There are any number of things you could be doing this afternoon. Do you absolutely have to sit next to me and play stupid games on your phone? You’re really bugging me!”

“If you want ice cream that badly, let’s just go get it! Anything to stop you from bugging me endlessly.”

Variations

This is actually a very versatile word, with multiple meanings. A bug can be a defect or a fad, for example. But for this week, we’ll focus on ‘bug’ in the sense of annoyance. It is important to remember that while in other senses ‘bug’ can be a noun or a verb, when used in this sense, the word is always a verb.

Meanings and usage

When you are being bugged by someone, you are being annoyed by them. The idiom can also be used in the context of minor or temporary obsession. If you are struggling to recall the name of a movie you watched a long time ago, for example, you could say you are not able to recall what movie it was, and say that it is really bugging you.

You can imagine how this idiom comes about. Think about a little insect—maybe a mosquito or a fly—crawling or flying around you. The insect is never big enough to be a real threat or to take up all of your attention, but it has just enough presence to be a constant source of minor distraction.

Accordingly, the expression is best used in contexts where the source of annoyance is minor and persistent. Someone throwing rocks at you is directly attacking you, not bugging you. But seeing something odd in passing that is a trivial mystery, (you pass by some random person who walks in a strange way, and the mystery bugs you for some time), or someone’s mannerism (such as whistling), or some behavioral quirk (such as a speech mannerism), or just persistent nagging or demands for something—these can all qualify as ‘bugging.’

Practice

Think about some people close to you. What are things likely to bug them the most? And the fastest? Have a conversation with them about these minor annoyances, and tell them about using the word ‘bug’ in such situations.

For each annoyance listed above, write up a quick dialogue: someone is being annoyed by such behavior, and complains about it in exasperation. Don’t forget to use the word ‘bug’ in your sentences.