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"Pushing the envelope"
Katrinka Blunt Says: "I have heard and used the expression in terms of testing limits. I distinctly remember hearing it in regard to the pilots who attempted to see how high they could fly, and this was termed "pushing the envelope". There is a movie made about the air force pilots who did this and then were not chosen for the original space program. If this was it's origin perhaps it has to do with the envelope of our atmosphere or some such thing. After all, one dictionary definition of envelope is: a curve or surface that is tangent to all curves or surfaces of a family of curves or surfaces".
My comment: As a posting said, it refers to the "envelope" (metal cover) of the plane. Add test pilot to the list of jobs I would not want.
Ronald Hilton - 2/1/02