This phrase is credited to Bernard of Chartres. The version I learned in school came from Newton: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." Newton liked Giants you see but he didn't want to be be seen as the little person in the equation.
Another way to rephrase this idea is: Understanding proceeds at every elevation by climbing upon ideas. But then I noticed with a wow, the word understanding is a standalone four syllable story of the very idea I'm describing. Perhaps some Carlinization has occurred over the years. I don't know.
Carlinization [n. see George Carlin]
Of or relating to the linguistic phenomenon that occurs when successive generations of yahoos add complexity to a simple and/or concise idea.
Interestingly, Carlinization is itself an embodiment of Carlinization. That makes me a yahoo.