Cannot Be Overestimated

Meanings of “Cannot Be Overestimated”

The phrase “cannot be overestimated” is as same as “can’t be exaggerated.” In other words, it is used when something or someone is getting over-significance or importance than it really deserves, or that it is winning way too much of attention than it deserves.

Origin of “Cannot Be Overestimated”

The phrase “cannot be overestimated” is stated to have been mixed upon between two words; underestimate and overestimate. Therefore, its meanings have become a little ambiguous. BBC Radio, however, has used it with reference to Google about its influence that it can’t be overestimated, which shows its significance.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

From “Cannot Be Underestimated” by Ben Zimmer January 21, 2011, from the New York Times

Allen Pinsky e-mails: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used the phrase ‘cannot be underestimated’ twice in his inaugural address. My interpretation of this is the reader/listener couldn’t possibly think lower of the situation or person. As he was referring to the degree of economic suffering, shouldn’t he have said either ‘cannot be overestimated’ or ‘should not be underestimated’ in this context?”

Let’s take a look at what Governor Cuomo said exactly. First, he describes how, during the gubernatorial campaign, he “saw up close and personal the suffering that our people are facing and the devastating toll that this economy has taken. And it cannot be underestimated.” After providing a few examples of struggling New Yorkers, he reiterates, “This, my friends, cannot be underestimated.”

The writer has commented on this phrase in his article referring to the speech of Governor Andrew, who used this phrase with reference to the sufferings of the people during the bad economic situation in the United States. Its meanings are clear as it shows that the issue of the public suffering should not be overestimated.

Example #2

Open Door by Siobhain Butterworth from The Guardian, November 16, 2009

“This frequent solecism ‘cannot be underestimated’ when the writer means ‘overestimated’ appears again,” said Rick Allen – a reader who is vigilant about this linguistic faux pas. He was referring to an opinion piece by Hans-Gert Pöttering, published on the brink of the US election in November 2008, when Pöttering was president of the European parliament. Pöttering’s piece explained why he intended to invite the new US president to address the European parliament, but this sentence had him undermining his own message: “The symbolic value of a presidential visit to strengthening the bonds between our two great democratic systems cannot be underestimated.”

The author has discussed the controversy of ‘overestimated’ and ‘underestimated’ in this passage, stating that it is a linguistic faux pas used by Hans-Gert Pottering.  The meaning is clear, implying that it cannot be exaggerated, which is the literal meaning of the phrase.

Example #3

From Word to the Wise: Untangling the mix-ups, misuse and myths of language by Mark Broatch

Often mixed up are overestimated and underestimated, especially in sentences such as ‘The likely effect of online shopping on high street shops can’t be underestimated.’ This statement, on the face of it, is wrong. Of course, the effect can be underestimated. The problem is twofold; the negative + under-confuses, but also can’t be here is being used to mean shouldn’t. Most of the time the reader or listener will unconsciously correct the sense of the statement. Sometimes that’s likely to be underestimated is often larger or greater than you realize; someone who is likely to be underestimated is usually capable to achieving more than you expect. If they can’t be underestimated, they have the protentional to surprise (Iceland’s football team can’t be underestimated). If you suggest that someone is being overestimated, it is being regarded as larger or more important than it actually is. To say that something can’t be overestimated, you are saying it is very important or larger than most people think (the impact of global warming can’t be overestimated. To minimize confusion, avoiding using can’t with either word.

The writer has commented on both overestimated and underestimated, saying that it has clear denotative meanings despite having a twofold issue about it. In the case of overestimating, it could be under-achievement and in case of an underestimate, a person could be a good-achiever. In both cases, the meanings are literal and denotative.

Example #4

Dexter and Philosophy: Mind over Spatter by edited by Richard Greene, George A. Reisch, Rachel Robiso

On the other side of the coin, Dexter was lucky enough to have been found and adopted by Harry Morgan, super-cop. This is lucky for Dexter in two ways. First, the Morgans are a decent family and provide him with good home life. This may seem trite, but its value can’t be overestimated. His relationship with his adoptive sister, though strained at times, is generally good. The Morgans take good care of young Dexter, as he himself is the first to admit. He says, “harry and Doris Morgan did a wonderful job raising me.”

This paragraph sheds light on the adoption of Dexter by the super-cop, Morgan. Having found a decent lifestyle, it became his routine. The author states that it is a tiring job to go through this grueling routine, but its importance and value cannot be overestimated by which implies that it is not an exaggeration. The meanings of the phrase are denotative rather than connotative.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “You cannot overestimate the private school education when comparing the state-run public schools.”

Example #2: “Everyone is mad about green tea and its healing powers. I believe it cannot be overestimated.”

Example #3: “Jake was perhaps overestimating his sister and entrusted his important files to her for safekeeping.”

Example #4: “Don’t keep saying that you cannot be overestimated; your actions will speak louder.”

Example #5: “Tiktok’s influence in the world of social media cannot be overestimated.”