According to Webster, hyperbole is “the representation of something in terms that go beyond the facts”.
In other words, it’s lying.
In fiction, or comedy, hyperbole is acceptable because everyone knows you are exaggerating for effect. You are trying either to impress or amuse.
There are clichés like “my head feels like a freight train ran through it”, or “she made enough food to feed an army”, or the directly related “she has as many chins as a Chinese phone book”. Those are exaggeration for effect, and not meant to be funny. More sad.
However, and of course, hyperbole is the cornerstone of humor. Jacob Cohen got a lot of respect for statements like, “And we were poor too. Why, if I wasn’t born a boy, I’d have nothing to play with.”
And what comedian hasn’t tried something like: “My dick is so big, I entered it in a contest and it came in first. And second. And third.”
Unless the comedian is a comedienne I suppose, but then she would do a boob joke. Or a thighs joke. Or a shoes joke. Oh good God! the shoes. The streets are paved in shoes. How many feet do women have…
My point is, hyperbole in certain situations is expected. However, hyperbole in news articles is unacceptable.
It used to be restricted to tabloids, but it’s leaking into mainstream media as well. See if you have noticed the following trends:
- anything apparent is blatant
- anything obvious is glaring
- every misfortune is a nightmare
- anything unexpected is a shocker
- anything shocking is a bombshell
- anything ugly is a horror
- every worry is a terror
- every disagreement is a slam
- every debate is a crisis
- every trend is an epidemic
- any expression of surprise is a freakout
- everything hidden is a “secret shame”
- every shame is a disgrace
- every disgrace is a scandal
- anything romantic is steamy
- every want is a “desperate desire”
- every setback is a failure
- every disappointment is a disaster
Most people don’t even notice anymore. When you are in a permanent state of hyperbole, it becomes the new normal.
Soon we will need the superhyperbole. Then the ultrahyperbole. Then the superultrahyperbole.
Or we can boycott any news media that has to exaggerate to get your attention.
Because — think about it — if it really was worth your attention, they wouldn’t need to exaggerate.