Short Saturday: Yes. This. (Hyperbole.)

I love slang but am less enamored of hyperbole, especially the kind that makes you sound like a thirteen-year-old (unless you’re writing fictional dialogue for young teens, in which instance go for it). In fact, I’m on record when it comes to the use of amazing, the patron saint of hyperbole, which is so overused as to be meaningless. (Here are some substitutes for the truly amazing-addicted.) I’ve also gone on record with how much I despise click-bait headlines.

But as this article in the New York Times notes,

The Internet has taken all these speech patterns and hit them with a dose of caffeine: the need to express emotion in bite-size, 140-character bits; the fact that we must come up with increasingly creative ways to express tone and emphasis when facial cues are not an option. There’s a performative element, too: We are expressing things with an audience in mind.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, yes, I agree, even though I am guilty of employing OMG. (And, wait—LOL doesn’t mean LOL anymore?)

I worry, sometimes, how a real death will affect users who think something is so funny, outrageous, or maddening that they say they are dying over it. I worry, too, for the future of literature, but that’s another post entirely.

Is this slang or exaggeration? I think it’s time we fight back, my wordies.

Tweet: Is this slang or simple exaggeration?
Tweet: “It’s as if we speak in click-bait now, every response more dramatic than the last.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  1. Early this year, I decided to strike the word “awesome” from my vocabulary unless I was talking about God. I had to delete and retype so often I got callouses on my fingers. (How do you feel about exaggeration, Jamie??) I think I ended up using worse hyperbole trying to find substitutes for “awesome.” :( Emojis helped a little but it’s so true that we simply feel the need to make up for lack of facial expression and tone of voice, and hyperbole fits the bill.

  2. Great post, Jamie, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    One point that may be of interest – one can go too far in the other direction. William Manchester, in “Goodbye, Darkness”, his stellar memoir of his WW2 service in the Marines, made the point that combat is an absolute profanity of all we hold dear – it’s horrifically over-the-top, and thus almost impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t had the experience. Manchester makes the point that Hemingway, in an effort to avoid hyperbole, opted for romantic understatement, which is as wrong as most attempts at overstatement. There is nothing romantic about industrialized killing in the Machine Age. It is simply obscene.

    Having experienced this, I agree. There’s really no way to describe combat (armed or unarmed). I’ve had to go there in a couple of works, and I hew to a rather flat and journalistic approach. There is a conundrum here – the experience really has to be represented, if only to symbolically present the valour of those who died for the freedoms we enjoy, but treading the line between the drum-beating of Lovelace and the cynicism of Sassoon is really, really hard.

    • jamiechavez says:

      I don’t think anyone would argue that what a soldier experiences in combat is a false emotion, which is the claim made in this article about (mostly) young women. Nice point though! (Although I must add I am a Hemingway fan.)

  3. John Lambert says:

    In the media, in public promotions….
    Hyperbole, exaggerations, “click bait” (misleading headings) are attempts to create a voice above the noise.

    Which makes the most simple, well worn methods of bringing OUR concerns to the fore front.. futile? These methods only raise the “noise floor”, ultimately being counter productive.
    (Reminds me of a MAD mag bumper sticker: ” Stomp out violence!”)

    Less quantity, more quality is needed in public discourse.
    An educated public, that recognizes thoughtful consideration is needed.

    In writing…..
    Communication of a experience or emotion, of significance is a matter of knowing the audience and setting the stage for the message.
    Really connecting to your audience? Is a split between “skill” and “divine intervention” (luck?).

    Like raising a child: I figure 50% nurture (within your influence), 50% nature (outside your influence – but at least you share a lot of it with the child – so you understand it).

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