Phrases I Don't Understand. Any You Don't Get?

“This is the best of all possible worlds.”

What does this mean? Like, is this a sort of Zen way of saying this is the only planet we have? It is a statement of optimism? It is a way of saying that from this point in time forward from the utterance of the statement one should try to maximize the utility possible at that point? What the hell does it mean? Why am I hearing it so much lately?

“I live life to the fullest.”

I see this in personal ads a lot. (I’ve split from my wife, so, you know.) You live life to the fullest. Okay… so you’re alive all the time, and never dead? Or do you mean you’re a workaholic and never relax? Gosh, that’s attractive. Are you on meth?
Any phrases you think people say that don’t really mean anything sensible?

“This is the best of all possible worlds” was, I believe, originally used by Voltare in Candide (the phrase was, I believe, something like “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”). It was intended as sacrasm, an attack on naive optomism. In Candide the hero undergoes increasingly unpleasant misfortunes …

“I live life to the fullest” I take to mean that the speaker claims to sieze opportunities, be outgoing, etc. The opposite of the pensive introvert.

IIRC, it was satire of Leibniz, who used this argument as (at least part of) a justification for the existence of god.

Silly Leibniz.

It was Gottfried Leibnitz’s attempt to reconcile the existence of God with “the problem of evil”, which is “How do you reconcile the idea of an all powerful, all knowing, all good God with the existence of evil in the world”.

Leibnitz’s answer is that, because God is all powerful, all knowing, and all good, that this world is is the possible world with the least amount of evil in it, because if it were possible to create a world that was less evil, God would do so. Therefore, any of the evils we see are really necessary for creation and would exist in any possible world.

Voltaire satirized Leibnitz’s views in his novel “Candide”, with Candide’s tutor, the philosopher, Dr. Pangloss, and so the term “the best of all possible worlds” probably passed into general knowledge with that.

It comes from Gottfried Leibniz and is best known for its repeated reference in Candideby Voltaire. Leibniz postulated that despite human suffering we live in the best of all possible worlds, and that were God to alleviate some of that suffering it would ultimately result in a worse outcome. Voltaire used the phrase satirically; Dr Pangloss, the character who repeats it, does so in the face of quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

As for what it means to you and others who use it: it depends. Either it means that, as bad as things are, this is as good as it gets and things could only be worse (whether you intrepret that as optimism or pessimism is a glass half empty/half full question), or it means that like Voltaire someone is being sarcastic. I’m not aware of a recent resurgence but YMMV.

What does “23 skiddoo” mean?

Interesting. I never knew about the Leibniz/Voltaire thing.

I always took it to mean “The best of both worlds”, which I take to mean some good from pile A and some good from pile B. Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

It is, it’s just using a more teleological basis to make the argument.

“Get out of here, get lost”, that type of thing.

I’ve always found it odd that “unremarkable” was a word.

Head over heels - Isn’t your head almost always over your heels

“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger” - Really? Maybe sometimes, but not a certainty. Many things that don’t kill you can make you much, much weaker.

IANA etymologist but I suspect this started out as “heels over head”, got mixed up because “head over heels” is easier to say (go ahead, try saying both) and stuck that way. See also: “I could care less”.

“Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.” (“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”) - Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (1888). I haven’t read it and thus can’t give you greater context for the original remark, but it’s probably relevant that the alternate title for the book was “How to Philosophize with a Hammer”.

“The optimist believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears that this is so.” :slight_smile:

Not sure who said that. Heinlein?

I just read a collection of Dashiell Hammett stories called Nightmare Town, and he used the “heels over head” version several times. I think most of these stories were written in the 20s and 30s.

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”

James Branch Cabell in The Silver Stallion.

That is a quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietszche, from his work Twilight Of The Idols (scroll down to “Maxims and Arrows”, #8): Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

For Nietszche the world is divided into the active and the passive. For one who is his ideal of Active, meeting and overcoming adversity leaves one stronger than one who seeks to avoid adversity.

To your point, I have a desktopper from Despair.com called Adversity that reads: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

There are also other colorful variants.

Even stranger, head over ears.

That dates back to at least the mid-late 19th century.

[hijack]I just read that same collection a few months ago, and I enjoyed it…to the fullest.[/hijack]

The phrases that come to mind for me are more along the lines of business buzzwords/catchphrases, but strictly speaking, it’s not that they don’t make sense to me, but I guess I think they’re worthless and people who utter them should be terminated (in any and every sense of the term).

One I’ve never really grokked is “Misery loves company.” Does it mean that miserable people like to have other people around generally, that they like to hang out with other people who happen to be miserable, or that they want to actively cause other people to be miserable? The way it’s used, I suppose the last option is right, but I didn’t suspect that was what it meant until a few years ago.