Tech Origin of 9 Idioms

Boing Boing Gadgets has a very neat post about 9 common idioms that turned out to have technological origins. For example:

"Push the envelope"

Common definition: Extreme, testing the limits (e.g. "That backside 1440 on the halfpipe was really pushing the envelope, broseph!")

Original definition: In aviation, the term flight envelope has been used since WWII to define the limit of what is safe to fly (engine power, maneuverability, wind speed, altitude). By "pushing the envelope", test pilots were able to find out the limits of aircraft. The "envelope" was a mathematical term to describe the boundaries of a set of numbers-like performance data from test aircraft.

First use: The phrase was used in print as early as 1978 in an edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine: "The aircraft's altitude envelope must be expanded to permit a ferry flight across the nation. NASA pilots were to push the envelope to 10,000 ft." However, it was Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" that put the term into popular consciousness.


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