envelope

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back-of-the-envelope calculation

A calculation or mathematical formulation that is approximated in a quick, informal, and rough manner, as might be sketched out on a scrap of paper (such as the back of an envelope). When it came time to pay the bill, we had to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations to figure out who owed how much.

the opening of an envelope

Any event, celebration, or ceremony, no matter how trivial or unremarkable, that one attends purely for the sake of visibility. Often said in relation to celebrities or media personalities who make a point of attending anything that will give them more public exposure. In a bid to cultivate a media buzz around herself, the Internet sensation has been to the openings of films, book launches, and celebrity galas. With the way she carries on, she'd even go to the opening of an envelope!
See also: envelope, of, opening

push the envelope

Fig. to expand the definition, categorization, dimensions, or perimeters of something. The engineers wanted to completely redesign the product, but couldn't push the envelope because of a very restricted budget.
See also: envelope, push

push (the edge of) the envelope

to move beyond the limit of what has usually been done or was the accepted standard TV shows are really pushing the envelope by showing so much sex and violence.
See also: envelope, push

push the envelope

Exceed the limits of what is normally done, be innovative, as in They are pushing the envelope in using only new fabrics for winter clothing. This idiom comes from aviation, the envelope alluding to the technical limits of a plane's performance, which, on a graph, appear as a rising slope as limits of speed and stress are approached and falls off when the capacity is exceeded and the pilot loses control; safety lies within these limits, or envelope, and exceeding them exposes pilot and plane to risk. [Slang; late 1960s]
See also: envelope, push

push the envelope

To exceed or try to exceed the existing limits of a discipline or activity.
See also: envelope, push
References in classic literature ?
With a firm, steady-eyed impudence, which seemed to hold back the threat of some abominable menace, he would proceed to sell over the counter some object looking obviously and scandalously not worth the money which passed in the transaction: a small cardboard box with apparently nothing inside, for instance, or one of those carefully closed yellow flimsy envelopes, or a soiled volume in paper covers with a promising title.
The envelope was addressed in the little attorney's handwriting.
No," replied Ginger, who had opened the envelope, "it is the rates and taxes, L 3 19 11 3/4 .
A little after, he got to his feet very sore and shaken, the poorer by a purse which contained exactly one penny postage- stamp, by a cambric handkerchief, and by the all-important envelope.
As soon, however, as the marquise had disappeared, her envious enemy, not being able to resist the desire to satisfy herself that her suspicions were well founded, advanced stealthily towards it like a panther and seized the envelope.
I took up the envelope and saw scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the gum, the letter K three times repeated.
You will kindly show the envelope of this letter to my man, Austin, when you call, as he has to take every precaution to shield me from the intrusive rascals who call themselves `journalists.
Such an envelope as this could retain the inflating fluid for any length of time.
How strange it seemed that to a full-grown white man an envelope was a mystery.
Denisov, frowning, took the envelope and opened it.
the captain asked, tearing open the envelope and moving a little nearer the electric light which shone out from the smoking room.
He saw nothing but the marking upon that letter, growing larger and larger as he gazed, the veritable writing of fate pressed upon the envelope by a rubber stamp--by the hand, perchance, of a clerk--"Opened by Censor.
I believe," he said, holding it out towards him, "that this envelope is yours.
He folded them just so, put the proper stamps inside the long envelope along with the manuscript, sealed the envelope, put more stamps outside, and dropped it into the mail-box.
The two inclosures had been secured in a sealed envelope, directed to the cottage.