What is it about the top of one's lungs that has to do with especially loud screaming? Every time I hear this idiom I imagine a little man screaming atop a giant lung.

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    I think it refers to the top (capacity) of your lungs. – user66974 Jun 19 '15 at 12:28
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    Or it could mean filling up your lungs to the top in order to scream. It's just a metaphor. – Mitch Jun 19 '15 at 12:54
  • But don't we always scream from the top of our lungs then? I mean doesn't the air from the lung come out around the top? Even when we breathe out technically we breathe out from the top of our lungs. – bpromas Jun 19 '15 at 13:00
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    Top refers to the maximum 'quantity' of air your lungs can contain, so that you can shout longer and louder. Top is not the opposite of bottom here. – user66974 Jun 19 '15 at 13:23

"Screaming at the top of your lungs" - I believe you can only scream aloud, when your lungs are filled to capacity or "to the brim", and hence "at the top of your lungs". The 'soundness' of our voice is directly related to the 'power of our lungs'.

As the air inside the lungs depletes, the pitch (of the sound) goes down.

Although there could be no rationale for idioms, that seems to be one. (Any upvotes for 'creativity' here?!)

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