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I've noticed that everything is now "bleeding-edge" — "cutting-edge" just doesn't cut it anymore — and I wonder what's next: "severing-edge"?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 17th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
Jun. 17th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)
Huh. I always thought the impetus behind "bleeding edge" was "leading edge".
Jun. 17th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
You may be right. I don't know which it was pushing. Cutting→bleeding→dismembering just seems a logical progression.
Jun. 18th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
Flying is inherently dangerous even when you know the extent of the envelope of security. When you fly something new, you are constantly trying to find the edge of that safe zone of actions and capabilities, how to get the most performance without excessive risk.

Flying is also very unforgiving of mistakes. If you pass beyond the edge of the envelope, there is a good chance you will die. The edge is a threshold between dying and continuing to live, the boundary of opposed, mutually exclusive binary conditions.

Those who borrowed the concept of the edge as a deadline, the point beyond which it is perilous to go, seemed to feel that the concept was too mild, so they beefed it up with superfluous adjectivery, such as cutting, bleeding and so on. If you understand the concept of the edge, additional adjectives add nothing.
Jun. 18th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
Re: Edges
I'm not familiar with the concept of edge as deadline. Everywhere I see cutting- or leading-, or lately bleeding-, edge, it has to do with something that is far ahead of the game, innovative, perhaps risky for venturing into the unknown.

The question is whether the term "bleeding edge" is derived from "leading edge," referring to the front part of an airfoil (wing or sail) that causes lift, or from "cutting edge," referring to the sharp edge of a knife. Either way, the adjective is necessary to differentiate between the leading/cutting edge and the trailing/blunt edge.

I speculate that "bleeding edge" comes as an extension of the knife metaphor, that something is so cutting edge it cuts deeper and draws blood, as opposed to merely a play on words with "leading" and "bleeding," implying that it is so far ahead as to be risky and increase the chance of bloodshed. Either way, it derives from one of these, if not both.

Yes, something that is "bleeding edge" is also "pushing the envelope" as both terms suggest venturing into risky areas. (However, something that is "pushing the envelope" is not necessary "bleeding edge," as the former implies exceeding safe limits but doesn't necessarily imply innovation or progress.) And yes, "pushing (the edge of) the envelope" comes from test pilot jargon for venturing beyond a mathematically determined threshold. However, "leading edge" and "cutting edge" both predate "pushing the envelope," which came into use around World War II. The "edge" in "bleeding/leading/cutting edge" is a physical object, part of either an airfoil or a knife; it is not the graphed edge of the "flight envelope," a mathematical construct that factors various parameters together to determine known safe limits. Thus, the adjectives are not superflous.
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