Push the envelop

守屋前次官夫妻逮捕のニュースに 誰も驚かなかっただろう。  今朝の毎日新聞余禄、「賄賂を示す英語のブライブは 古くは物乞いに施すパンの事だったらしい。  これに対し和語のまいないは 元は神への供え物である。・・・中略 

まいないの語源の一つには まじないが転じたという説も・・・」なるほど、受け取った者の心を縛る呪力を持ち合わせた賄賂は 送り主にとっては 願いをかなえてくれるまじないなのだろう。

バンクーバーで 政治家の倫理意識を問うニュースで 頻繁に使われていた英語 ‘Push the envelop too far(to far)’ 前後関係から何となく意図していることは理解できるのだが 何故 envelop? と言う単語がここで使われるのだろう?

辞書で調べても載っていなかったので アメリカのアカデミックな友人グループにメールしてみた。(英語に興味のある方のため 何人かの回答メール一応のせておきます)   限界を超えると言う意味合いで 捉えかたは良かったようだが 元来、語源は 航空用語にあり envelopは我々がイメージする封筒ではなく数学用語。  

因みに Push the envelopだけだと 限界に挑戦すると言う意味のようです。  封筒と即座にイメージした私、 厚い札束の入った金封筒を 目的遂行の為に強く押しすぎて 限度を超えてしまったのかと錯覚したあの時を 思い出してしまった今回の守屋夫妻逮捕です。

画像は どう読めますか?  Good? それとも・・・?  Evil が裏にはありますね。シカゴのN氏が送信してくださった頭の体操のひとつです。

My definition:
Trying to do something (or possibly say something) beyond what is reasonable and prudent.

I think of "pushing the envelope" as simply going past the limits of what's safe, appropriate or prudent. I think of "pushing the envelope to far", as pushing the envelope to the point of failure or breakage--which could be an object or the breakdown of a relationship, and so forth.

With a child, when they keep doing something they are not suppose to do and are warned to stop, but with that dare devil (mischievous) look keep on and on and on doing whatever they're not suppose to do, eventually one could say, THAT"S pushing the envelope TO FAR and usually results in a spanking or being sent to one's room, or one's allowance being taken away for a time, or, if a teenager, being grounded ("being grounded" means they are restricted from going out on dates or meeting with friends and can only go to school and must come home immediately after school for a a week or some period of time).

"Pushing the Envelope" is really an engineering term. I'll give you a simple example. If a plane if to take off on a runway, there are a number of things to consider. (The characteristics of the plane, the payload, the length of the runway, the altitude above sea level of the airport, the air temperature, etc.) All of these limitations are plotted on a sheet and the relation between the various items considered. For instance, if the payload is light, the runway can be shorter. The plot usually has a section, which resembles an envelope in shape, which indicates the safe operating levels. Therefore "pushing the envelope" refers to operating close to the line of safety. In aeronautics, pushing the envelope could result in instability or complete structural failure of the aircraft.

It has become common usage, outside the engineering field to refer to any behavior which is borderline in safety or ethics. For instance, an employee who has been reprimanded for drinking on the job, but then shows up for work obviously under the influence of alcohol would be "pushing the envelope" in that he would be in danger of being fired. A risky financial investment could also be "pushing the envelope" on safe investment. I hope this answers your question

Ira, my husband, says, Pushing the envelope is simply challenging the limits or boundaries.

Pushing the envelope too far: If something has limits or boundaries pushing them till they rupture or break or fail.

Here's one more definition of "push the envelope too far" for you from an article in the NY Times which refers to political activists ( which I consider myself). "An activist's role is to be persistent and unsatisfied and try to push the envelope (too far?)" I would add that this particularly applies to "single issue" activists.