"back-of-the-envelope"

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Spehro Pefhany:
[nq:1]What is the meaning of "back-of-the-envelope"? I often see "back-of-the-envelope calculations" in some sentences. Thanks![/nq]
Imagine you are sitting in a diner or other public place with another person discussing something over a coffee or whatever. You get to the point where a sketch or some math is required. One of you pulls out used envelope and the sketch or calculations are made on the back of it.
Hence, it's a quick, informal calculation or design. It would be expected to be conceptually accurate, but perhaps not fully worked out in every detail.
There is also "back of the napkin", referring to a similar sketch made on a (paper) serviette. Why the "back", in that case, I don't know. Maybe it was derived from the "envelope" concept.
Best regards,
Spehro Pefhany

"it's the network..." "The Journey is the reward" (Email Removed) Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com Embedded software/hardware/analog Info for designers: http://www.speff.com
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david56:
Gavin Au typed thus:
[nq:1]What is the meaning of "back-of-the-envelope"? I often see "back-of-the-envelope calculations" in some sentences.[/nq]
It means that something has been worked out very quickly, and without expecting the answer to be perfectly accurate. All the calculations can be done on the back of an envelope - you don't need any more paper as the calculation will be approximate and quick.

This may be a mostly US expression - I have heard it, but I wouldn't use it myself (I live in the UK). The more common expression here is "back of a fag packet", which is even smaller.

David
==
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Gavin Au:
Thank you very much!!! =)
"Spehro Pefhany" (Email Removed) ¦b¶l¥ó ¤¤¼¶¼g...
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Lars Eighner:
In our last episode,
(Email Removed),
the lovely and talented david56
broadcast on alt.usage.english:
[nq:1]Gavin Au typed thus:[/nq]
[nq:2]What is the meaning of "back-of-the-envelope"? I often see "back-of-the-envelope calculations" in some sentences.[/nq]
[nq:1]It means that something has been worked out very quickly, and without expecting the answer to be perfectly accurate. All ... (I live in the UK). The more common expression here is "back of a fag packet", which is even smaller.[/nq]
Legend has it that the Gettysburg Address was written on the back of an envelope during the train ride to the event. (There were, in fact, several drafts, none of which are exactly as the address was delivered - and neither were the presentation copies written later which are the basis of the text that American schoolchildren memorize.) I suppose the legend has something to do with the popularity of "back of the envelope" in the US.

Lars Eighner finger for geek code (Email Removed) http://www.io.com/~eighner / Ambition is the last refuge of the failure. Oscar Wilde
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Gavin Au:
Thank you very much!!! =)
"david56" (Email Removed) ¦b¶l¥ó
¤¤¼¶¼g...
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Don Phillipson:
[nq:2]What is the meaning of "back-of-the-envelope"? I often see "back-of-the-envelope calculations" in some sentences.[/nq]
This is used by people who either do not know
the words improvised or impromptu, or who
fear their use will be considered snobbish.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
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John Dean:
[nq:2]Gavin Au typed thus: It means that something has been ... is "back of a fag packet", which is even smaller.[/nq]
[nq:1]Legend has it that the Gettysburg Address was written on the back of an envelope during the train ride to ... memorize.) I suppose the legend has something to do with the popularity of "back of the envelope" in the US.[/nq]
Since no-one is entirely sure how, exactly, the address was delivered, no-one can say with certainty how close any of the drafts is. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gadrft.html
The legend is, of course, legend. As a facsimile shows, http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gadrft.html ,
it was written in ink on Executive Mansion stationery (though there were pencil additions made before delivery). If Mr Lincoln could have written that on a train, then British Rail should be looking for the stabilising system used on C19 American Railways. Every time I've tried to write something longhand on a British train it's ended up looking like a cardiogram.

John Dean
Oxford
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