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What does this mean?

Modestly stepping aside can never be recommended as a continual practice in strong enough terms.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/09/robert-walser-disappearing-acts.html

Does this mean that modestly stepping aside is a very good practice, and highly recommended as a continual practice?

Is this usage the same as "I can't thank you enough?"

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Yes the sense of the two sentences is the same. The combination is similar to "I couldn't care less" or "I can't praise him enough."

  • So this author thinks stepping aside is a good thing? – user2492 Sep 7 '13 at 12:09
  • Yes. A very good thing. – Peter Flom - Reinstate Monica Sep 7 '13 at 12:09
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    Please flesh out this answer some more; we aren't looking for yes/no answers here on ELL. Explain why they're the same, and perhaps address the OP's "I can't thank you enough" point. We are looking for thorough answers. Please edit this answer and keep these guidelines in mind for the future. Thanks. – WendiKidd Sep 7 '13 at 19:25
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The OP asked: Does this mean that modestly stepping aside is a very good practice ...?

On the other hand, Walser’s celebration of the monotonous or uniform returns us to his fascination with subservience, with relinquishing all personality to imposed order: “Modestly stepping aside can never be recommended as a continual practice in strong enough terms.”

According to Walser, "to step aside" is recommendable and perhaps considered even an act of courtesy and modesty. I understand it to mean you should not be avaricious to appear in the limelight; to be a protagonist; to be seen as a strong individual or a leader but allow the higher ranking person to appear on centre stage, to take command, as it were; to guide and lead the way. Moreover, this type of behaviour should not be limited to the occasional or spasmodic episode but rather it ought to be a continual practice.

Subservience means excessive obedience, submissiveness and servility. All traits which in today's modern society tend to be discouraged and frowned upon, however; Walser cannot emphasize just how important it is to remain silently in the background, to negate one's identity and merge in with the rest. This is what is understood by the expression in strong enough terms

Finally, in answer to the OP's last question:

If someone says: I cannot thank you enough he is saying that no matter how grateful she/he is,
how often she/he thanks us personally, it will never be sufficient/enough.

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Modestly stepping aside can never be recommended as a continual practice in strong enough terms.

Ironically, this can be parsed literally to mean either that stepping aside should be recommended strongly or that it shouldn't be recommend strongly. One can understand this to mean that unless one is going to use terms that are not strong enough to make the recommendation effective, one should not recommend modestly stepping aside. But no native speaker would use it to mean anything other than that no matter how strong the terms you use to recommend stepping aside, they should still be stronger.

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