Got myself a new ten cent word, I do … hyperbole.
Not really a new word ... but one not thought of for a long time. It popped up recently in some reading material ...
A hyperbole is simply an expression or description of something that is so extremely exaggerated that it is obviously untrue or impossible ... like, I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse! ... an obvious lie. Even if you were actually eating horsemeat – yuck! – I sincerely doubt you'd be eating the whole animal by yourself in one sitting. And although we teach our children that it's wrong to lie, our conversation is peppered with exaggerations like this all the time.
Our whole culture is saturated with hyperbole and exaggeration, especially in marketing and advertising, because that product or service we’re promoting and selling is the latest and the greatest and your whole life will be shattered beyond repair if you don’t buy RIGHT NOW!
People with sanguine-type personalities are big exaggeraters. Listen closely when Aunt Harriet is telling everybody at dinner about the incident that happened to her in the grocery store parking lot today. Then next weekend when you two are out at the flea market and you run into an old high school chum, you'll get to hear the tale again. Notice how the story gets slightly embellished. And every telling afterwards will likely get progressively more embellished.
Five years from now, when you're hearing it for the umpteenth time at Thanksgiving dinner, you'll be amazed at how it's morphed into something totally unrecognizable from the original tale.
It's okay. She's just adding a little touch of drama ... making it a bit more fun to tell and a bit more fun to hear. After all, everybody knows how Aunt Harriet is ...
Still, if you are in the storytelling business like we are, and you happen to notice that Aunt Harriet is getting favorable reactions from her audience – they're crying-laughing-applauding in all the right spots – pay close attention and study how she does it. You might learn a few things and up your game a little.
Of course, if her audience isn't responding so well, you can learn from that, too. It's just as important sometimes to know what not to do.
So, how many hyperboles, embellishes and maybe just flat out lies can you get away with? And why would you want to anyhow? Come back next week and I'll tell you ...