That’s a Hyperbolic Understatement if I Ever Heard One

 


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There are at least sixty different types of rhetorical devices in English literature. The English language is an odd mixture of truth and symbolism and most often exhibits this propensity in the form of various figures of speech. Of all the types of symbolic or rhetorical devices used, hyperbole is the most common. The use of hyperbole may remind you of William Shatner and his propensity to overact.

Worsley Online School asked visitors to come up with examples of hyperbole. Here are a few of the best examples from school-aged children. (Source: www.worsleyschool.net)

"My sister uses so much makeup when she smiles her cheeks fall off. " Ed

"My Teacher's so old she's mentioned in the Old Testament. " Kaysie

"My dog is so ugly the fire hydrants disguise themselves!" Cara

"My city is so isolated it takes three days just to get to the grocery store!" Ashley

"Your sister is so dumb, she walked by the YMCA and thought they spelled MACY'S wrong" Alicia

"My history teacher's so old, he lived through everything we've learned about ancient Greece" Ryan,

"Saskatchewan is so flat, you can see your dog run away for 4 days!" Jenna

"It was so cold, even the polar bears were wearing jackets. " Elizabeth

The opposite demonstration of this rhetorical device is called ‘Understatement’.

This method draws the reader in by providing a statement that does not seem to fully appreciate the impact of event or situation.

Situation: The temperature outside is 10 below zero.
Hyperbole: It is so cold outside your words freeze. No one can hear you until the spring thaw.
Understatement: It might get a little cool today.

Situation: A chef prepares a wonderful dinner.
Hyperbole: The food was so good it got time off for behavior.
Understatement: The food was tolerable.

Situation: Viewing a NASCAR race.
Hyperbole: The car was so fast I heard a sonic boom.
Understatement: The cars drove at a fair clip.

Authors use hyperbole and understatement in both fiction and non-fiction writing, however it is safe to say that the use of hyperbole is much more widely used. Hyperbole is often used excessively and may not be as clever for the reader as we imagined when we devised the hyperbolic line.

As with almost everything in life the use of hyperbole and understatement are best used in moderation. The use of hyperbole may help define a character in a storyline but there is a significant amount of hyperbole that has been relegated to colloquialism and often becomes cliché to the reader.

Scott Lindsay is a web developer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of FaithWriters (http://www.faithwriters.com ) and many other web projects. FaithWriters has grown to become one of the largest online destinations for Christian writers. Members include writers from all around the world. Please visit the website at: http://www.faithwriters.com

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