"If life gives you lemons, make lemonade", which philosophy is this?

Okay, I’m really looking for two things here.

  1. The origin of the phrase,

“If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade (/lemon juice)”

And the earliest known variants of this type of phrase (“make a positive with a negative”). For example, possibly in China there was some sort of phrase “If the orange tree does not sour – then why should we care?” Okay so I’m reaching a little, but you get the idea.

  1. What is the philosophy behind this thought-structure (or idea) called? I mean the idea of turning a negative into a positive?

I think that’s the key aspect of this type of phrase. “Lemons” are meant to signify something negative, yet you produce something with that negative characteristic; which is positive.

So what is this philosophy called and who were the first proponents of it (both in a historical sense e.g. the Chinese and in an Academic sense e.g. Neitze sp.???). ?

It is not really a philosophy as such, rather a glib little phrase which could be claimed by all kinds of schools of thought. As a guess, it reminds me most of stoicism, that the wise man is emotionally immune to misfortune.

Such a platitude also reminds me of the “luaghing philosopher”, Democritus (yes, the atom guy).

Of course, you could go with an alternative motto. Mine happens to be “If life gives you lemons, plant a lemon grove so you can profit from the misery of others.”

It works for me.


In my experience, folks spouting these sorts of platitudes really mean, "If life gives you lemons, JUST SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR GODDAMN LEMONS!!. " How nice for those lemonade makers that in addition to lemons, life gave them sugar, fresh water and a clean glass in which to mix it. Not all lemon eaters are so lucky.

What do you do if Life Gives You Prunes?

Have regular bowel movements?

You regularly make prune juice.

My gf always says, “optimism is the first step toward disappointment”.

Doesn’t really help here, huh. And I was so optimistic…

I’d probably shut up and eat my goddamn prunes, lol. :stuck_out_tongue:

I like to say, ‘Oh, well. Adopt, adapt, and improve!’ :wink:

What? No Napkins?! :d

Sure it is. What’s the matter, can’t you take a little constructive citricism?

Gaston: Well, I know it is not a great philosophy but…
[pauses, looks offended]
Gaston: Well, fuck you. I can live my life in my own way if I want to.
[begins to walk away in disgust]
Gaston: Fuck off. Don’t come following me.

I don’t agree that it fits stoicicm so well as it isn’t just accepting or ignoring adversity but turning it into an advantage.

No, no, that’s the point of the platitude! You have to be the sugar, otherwise the lemons are just lemons.

Or as Henry Rollins put it, “If life gives you lemons, say ‘Oh yeah, I like lemons, what else you got?’”

I always understood it as meaning rather : “If live gives you lemons, then make some lemonade, sell it and make a profit of it”. IOW find a way to turn your misfortune in something advantageous. Somewhat more positive than your interpretation, though not much more satisfying an answer.

Now, isn’t that precious! My lemons are suddenly too sweet to eat now!

Epicureanism :wink: