Hyperbole rules. True hyperbole is a figure of speech wherein a person uses exaggeration for emphasis, to get attention about something: “If I don’t get this car I’ll just die!” Or “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Or “The wolf blew and blew until he blew the house down.” It’s intentionally not to be believed.
But today’s hyperbolist not only wants to get attention but also wants you to believe what he/she said. It’s as if the only way to make a point is to call upon the most grandiose, most extreme words as possible, magnify what happened — and call it truth.
TV reporters (and politicians, but I won’t go there) are ruthless hyperbolists, particularly when reporters cover disasters. “The tornado hit the town and completely devastated it,” the reporter declares.
Pu-leeze! The town wasn’t completely devastated, obliterated, or “completely flattened,” either. Buildings were damaged, but the town’s still there!
“The cop gave every car on the block a ticket.” No, he didn’t — just the one belonging to the loudmouth telling the tale later.
A woman asked a cashier to give her change. When she saw that the customer being waited on was paying with cash, too, she grinned, stuck out her twenty dollar bill and exclaimed, “Nobody uses cash anymore!” She had to be reminded that she, the customer and the cashier just did.
When it comes to hyperbole, the spoken — rather than the written — word might be the biggest culprit. Having been warned repeatedly not to overuse adverbs, writers apparently are more careful, at least on paper.
Have a hyperbole that you hate? Feel free to share it here!