With this fantastic life-changing blog, I thought it was about time that I covered the absolute best rhetorical device that you will undoubtedly find to turn your world upside down. Yup, I’m covering hyperbole. Truth of the matter, hyperbole is one of the easier forms of rhetoric to find, criticize, and call BS at a whim. Hyperbole, or intentional exaggeration, also known as auxesis, can be a very useful tool. You can make your topic more positive, more negative, or even change the quality entirely. More likely than not you’ll have seen and used hyperbole once today without even knowing it.
Hyperbole used to make a topic, object, or person more positive is more commonly known as “sugar coating”. In the past tense, hyperbole lessens a traumatic event or even builds an experience up more than the reality. Nostalgia, for example, is surrounded by hyperbole. My step-father remembers Skipper’s fish restaurants as having “massive tasty pieces of fresh fish for cheap”. The last time we went, the only thing he had to eat was his words. Granted, I’ve caught myself doing the exact same thing with pizza places. I tell friends “this place is the best pizza. you’ll love it” just to find that the bite wasn’t worth the hype. However, let’s face it, they’re all the best pizza places in my mind. For future tense, hyperbole can be used to convince others “this will be a good thing”. No one can see into the future; yet, hyperbole is still used on children to denote going to the dentist as not-that-bad or to convince someone that “what’s the worst that could happen?” right before a major catastrophe. Sometimes it’s just the choice of being positive when looking onward and upwards.
For car accidents, making the situation more negative is the objective. Two people on both ends of a car accident could use hyperbole in an attempt to lower/increase blame. One may say, “that’s just a scratch. I don’t think we need get insurance into this” in order to reduce blame, while the other is writhing on the ground pretending to be dying in order to increase it. The reality, the accident is probably smack in-between both persons’ understandings. Hyperbole can also be used to instill fear, anger, or some other negative emotion in a propaganda style. Check out the picture below.
The poster suggests that drinking a 20 ounce coke is the same as eating half a dozen donuts. I highly doubt it, but the poster is clearly trying to make a point about sugar intake. The reality is more complicated. The human body processes donuts and coke differently. I’m not a doctor, but I’m marrying one and she would shake her head “yes” in agreement. When I read this post to her for approval, I’m really hoping that I didn’t just exercise a bit of hyperbole myself for this paragraph. Either way, this post will have been published and my point will have been made.
The last way I will submit hyperbole is the complete state change. This is where a very bad thing is made good and a very good thing made bad. We can see this the most in U.S. politics. “They will ruin the country”, “They are ruining the country”, “They have ruined the country”. Tense is key for this one. Voting is being influenced constantly. Policy is being changed constantly. Most of the time this use of hyperbole is intended to discredit a political party or politician. The reality of the use is much more different. No single person has the capability or power in the U.S. to change everything all at once. (at least not for long periods of time). However, the reactionary body of people are to blame for anything and everything, good and bad. If that’s not the most broad sentence you’ll read today, I don’t know what is. My point is this: what you are doing with using hyperbole is much different than what you are intending to do. If you find at any time you are blaming a single person or a small group with policy, you are most likely practicing hyperbole on yourself.
Remember, hyperbole is really just over-emphasis in either a positive or negative way. How you utilize this rhetorical device will set the exceptions for future events or change the understandings of a past one. Saying something like, “I’ll be done in a flash”, may seem like a good way to instill confidence, but as you raise the expectations, known that you also have to fulfill them. If you intend to state change, think about what you are doing versus what you’re intending. It would be a shame if your audience thought less of you for using hyperbole incorrectly.
As always, be aware that we use hyperbole every day. Knowing what it is and how you can utilize it can mean the difference in destroying the galactic empire of understanding or ignoring the minuscule atom of an important detail.