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05 January, 2011


Hyperbole:  "An exaggerated statement that is not meant to be taken literally."  The Oxford Dictionary

I just realized today that I use "hyperbole" quite frequently in the things I say and write.  I think I get it from my mother who was a hyperbolist of the highest order.

It has been my experience that hyperbole is almost a lost art and is certainly not understood or appreciated by the upcoming generation who, regretfully in my opinion, are far too literal minded and uncolourful in their self expression.

In all honesty, my ability to communicate would suffer greatly were it not for a liberal application of hyperbole.  For instance, I just came in from an hour of blowing snow in my driveway and announced to my wife that a snow plow had just deposited "Mount Everest" in our driveway.  I followed that up by remarking that I had neglected a "ton of work" and that paper on my desk was "piled a mile high". 

I am reminded of something that Stephen Leacock, the dean of Canadian humorists, once wrote.  "An English reviewer writing in a literary journal, the very name of which is enough to put contradiction to sleep, has said of my writing, 'What is there, after all, in Professor Leacock's humour but a rather ingenious mixture of hyperbole and myosis?'

"The man was right.  How he stumbled upon this trade secret, I do not know.  But I am willing to admit, since the truth is out, that it has long been my custom in preparing an article of a humorous nature to go down to the cellar and mix up half a gallon of myosis with a pint of hyperbole.  If I want to give the article a decidedly literary character, I find it well to put in about half a pint of paresis.  The whole thing is amazingly simple."

Stephen was at his humorist best in this short response piece.  For some of us old timers, however, the storage cellar is in our minds and a river of hyperbole just naturally flows from us.

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