Hyperbolic Missiles: The best or worst language trait of all time?
This may be the hardest thing I’ve ever written in my life. Or the easiest?
It may be the funniest thing you’ve ever read in your life. But probably not.
What it will be, however, is a self-scrutiny of my use of hyperboles every single day of my life. (There I go again...)
I was recently talking to a friend and impulsively described the musician Sam Fender, with the exact words, “the single greatest singer-songwriter of our generation.” A hyperbole to a magnanimous extent: I love Sam Fender, I think that he is fantastic, but the greatest?…of our generation? Perhaps a slight exaggeration. This made me question my blatant and ubiquitous use of hyperbolic rhetoric and I couldn’t help but wonder why I do it. Could I even go one whole day without describing something beyond its means? (I tried and failed, miserably. I couldn’t even last an hour and am now stuck with my colleagues and friends shouting hyperbole every time I describe something.)
I am not the only one who suffers from this hyperbolic crisis: it is a malady with which many of us are afflicted. You may not realise you’re doing it, but flippant use of ‘starving’ or ‘freezing’ on the daily, and you are committing this linguistic sin. The journalist, Andy Bodle, once wrote that the use of hyperbole was a true bastardisation of the English language, as it undervalues the vast range of adjectives our mother tongue possesses. Somewhat ironically overstated some might say.
Clickbait is a phenomenon that we could blame for this exponential rise, as every YouTube video or Facebook news link has to grab attention within milliseconds, satiating the instant gratification dopamine trigger. With videos titled ‘The WORST day of my life’, YouTubers capitalise on this wave of over-embellishment to no end. In reality, a haircut resulting in dodgy bangs might not really have been the worst day. (Although, thanks to PWB we have confirmation that hair is everything.)
This, for want of a better word, millennial vocabulary is in constant competition to become the most exaggeratory, and there is no better way of seeing this upswing than by tracking the trajectory of our common responses to funny things.
It started out, as all things do, simple but effective:
The next step - the ironic acronym:
One step further from laughing out loud comes the first impossible contraction:
The worst offender in my opinion due to its absolute lack of meaning:
Finally, the most recent version and the one that is the most hyperbolic, and therefore my favourite:
Following this examination, I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a hyperbole - not exactly a revelatory deduction. It is a trend that is not slowing down, for the sole reason that time erodes meaning, and therefore we need to become more expressive to get our emotion across (millennial angst).
For now, I am signing off to go and watch Netflix’s newest blockbuster The King, so someone please call an ambulance because every time I see Timothée Chalamet, I’m dead.
- Tori Sharp