Out of the box

Antonio

Senior Member
Mexico/Spanish
Hi Group,

What does it mean the phrase "out of the box"? I heard something like "You have to think out/outside of the box" and "He got out of the box and went beyond something" Can someone explain to me this phrases and make a sentence to understand better the different usages of this phrase?
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hi Antonio-

    The sense of the phrase is to go beyond what is conventionally accepted.

    For example, Galileo was thinking 'outside the box' in his astronomical studies. Everyone else had, for centuries, accepted one viewpoint. He questioned it, rather than making it a given in his thinking.
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    "out of the box" could be the same thing as "push the envelope"? Can you make sentence using "out of the box" as an example to understand better the context.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Not quite the same...to push the envelope is to test something at its known limits, while thinking out of the box is to ignore assumptions about limits entirely.

    The inventor of xerography was thinking completely out of the box. In the 1930's, no one saw a need for a small office copying machine, let alone the technical feasibility of a device that could create instantaneous copies. He didn't try to refine an existing technology. He created something entirely new.
     

    Sharon

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    This is a very hard one to explain. As an example, this is not really how it would be used, but I am just trying to clarify the concept.

    If a child has been grounded, but a friend is having a birthday party, the child might go to their mother, and say, "But, all my friends will be there, and she only has one birthday a year, and I promise to be good, and I will let Aunt Bertha kiss me, and I will do the dishes for a month, and...and...and..." This is pushing the envelope.

    To think outside of the box, the child would wonder how to get a new mother!!!
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    Thanks Sharon, Normally I heard that people said "(to go/to think) (outside/out) of the box", is there another way I can say it? I still don't get it, because it confuses me this word and the other one (push the envelope) Can someone in this forum please help me out with my question.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Antonio said:
    ...is there another way I can say it?

    I'll try: "Put aside all of your assumptions and get creative."

    There was another thread for 'pushing the envelope'. Once you have absorbed that, the contrast with this one may become more clear.

    suerte,
    Cuchu
     

    Olivia

    Member
    Switzerland French
    That's funny! For some odd reason I always thought that "pushing the envelope" meant "to give an anoying bureaucrat an envelope with some money in it to get him to give you the damned paper you need" ... also a way to push someone beyond their (official) limits, after all...
     

    Sharon

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    Olivia said:
    "to give an anoying bureaucrat an envelope with some money in it to get him to give you the damned paper you need" ...
    Wow, all that just to say "a bribe" !! :p
    Olivia, I think the popular expression for that is "Greasing the wheel." (Although I'm sure there are others.)

    Antonio, I don't know any other expression for saying this, if that is what you are looking for. Other than making up new stories for you, I can't explain it any better than Mr. Cuchu. :D

    Cuchufléte said:
    "Put aside all of your assumptions and get creative."
    Hope it helps!
     

    Frank Breen

    New Member
    Antonio,
    Think of it this way. You're flying a plane who's maximum speed is 300 mph. You take it to 350 mph. You're pushing the envelope by taking that plane beyond its expected range of performance but you are not asking it to do something contrary to its nature. Now consider someone with a serious illness, say a rare form of cancer. The traditional treatment, say surgery, has not, in your opinion been effective. So you recommend a totally different therapy that has never before been tried but which you believe has possible merit. Now you're thinking outside the box.
    Frank
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    So, "push the envelope" means to push the limits of science and technology is more focus on that field, right? and "out of the box" means to think or do something differenty.

    Please tell me, if I got the idea, more or less right or not.
     

    Rob625

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are two quite different expressions:

    To work out of the box - to provide a function without needing attachments (or software) or modification. E.g. "Windows XP provides media playing out of the box."


    To think outside the box - to allow ideas that are not conventional or may appear to break the rules.

    There is a classic puzzle which I think may be the origin of this phrase; if not, it is certainly a good example of what it means.

    Put nine dots on a piece of paper in a three-by-three square like this:

    [CODE] . . .


    . . .


    . . .[/CODE]
    Now the task is to take a pencil and draw go through all the dots, always going in straight lines, never taking the pencil off the paper, and changing direction the least possible number of times.

    You can obviously do it with four turns and five line segments, for instance like this:

    [CODE]
    .____.____.
    |
    |
    .____.____.
    |
    |
    .____.____.
    [/CODE]
    The question is, can you do it with only three turns and four line segments?
     

    Sharon

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    Antonio, to "push the envelope" means to push the limits of anything.

    Oh, Rob625...have you ever heard of Pandora's Box ? :eek:
     

    Rob625

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sharon said:
    Oh, Rob625...have you ever heard of Pandora's Box ? :eek:
    Yes indeed, but I don't immediately see the relevance. Are you suggesting that the phrase derives from the story of Pandora?
     

    LadyBlakeney

    Senior Member
    Spain
    If you are interested in the solution to Rob's puzzle, I found it by chance!

    You'll have to unzip it and open it with Microsoft Paint or any other .bmp files viewer. I solemnly swear there is no virus in it. :)

    Oh, I know it is childish, but I've always been awful at these things... :eek:
     

    Attachments

    Rob625

    Senior Member
    English - England
    LadyBlakeney said:
    If you are interested in the solution to Rob's puzzle, I found it by chance!
    Well done, LadyB, if I may so address your ladyship. Quite right!

    But don't put yourself down! You found the solution using your intelligence, not by chance. Probably the context helped, but it takes intelligence to make use of context.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I would like to add to "push the envelope" because I just used this expression the other day with a friend. I hadn't seen this friend for a long time and she asked me, "How are you doing?"

    I answered her, "Well, we're pushing the envelope these days but we're fine." meaning that I and my family are all very busy, never have extra time and we are constantly working. We are stretching ourselves to the limit. So, in answer to Antonio's question, "push the envelope" can be used in any context, not just in science and technology.
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    Can I say in English for example "No Man, you have to go outside of the box", will it mean the same thing or not? or it changes completly the meaning? and if it changes, what I am trying to say here in the particular context.
     
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