"Going over the top
" is a military phrase derived from the trench warfare
of the First World War
(generally, trench warfare was used on the Western Front
). Attacks starting from trenches required infantry
to climb over the top of the parapet
before they could cross no man's land
to attack the enemy trenches. 'Going over the top' was an unpopular task; soldiers awaited three blows on a whistle to proceed. One soldier commented 'it felt like such a long time waiting to go over the top that many of us expected the war to be over by the time we had climbed on to 'no man's land'.
The phrase may be applied to describe leaving a safe condition for an unsafe one (compare to "out of the frying pan, into the fire").
The phrase describes the arm-wrestling move practiced by the character Lincoln Hawk in the 1987 film Over the Top, wherein a few adjustments in finger placement provide leverage to overtake an opponent.
The phrase "over the top" (OTT), has come to refer to excess, particularly outrageous behaviour or hyperbole.