20 Jun 2013

What is Hyperbole?

Hyperbole is deliberate, sometimes outrageous exaggeration for effect.

Everyday examples include: 'I'm starving!'* (when you're merely hungry), 'I hate you, I wish I was never born' (teens to parents), 'she's so evil', 'the satan child'*, 'the middle of nowhere'*, 'I will love you forever / to the end of time*', 'this is the best thing ever', 'I'm going to die if I can't have it', 'it feels like the end of the world'**, 'he's as old as the hills'**, 'he went nuclear'*, 'he went mental/crazy/beserk', 'it's falling down', 'it's a wreck'*, 'it was an absolute car crash'*, 'I'm walking on air'*, 'the sun shines out of his backside'*, 'you'd think he can walk on water'**, 'that's magic'* or 'it's like magic'**, 'that's impossible'.

N.B. A lot of examples of hyperbole are also metaphors* or similes**.


Martin Amis
"The only way to get across the road is to be born there. All the pedestrian crossing signs say DON’T WALK, all of them, all the time. That is the message... Stay inside. Don’t walk. Drive. Don’t walk. Run! I tried the cabs. No use. The cabbies ... aren’t even sure whether this is a right planet or a left planet. The first thing you have to do, every trip, is teach them how to drive." --Martin Amis, Money, 1984

(about New York) 'If you so much as loosen your seatbelt or drop your ashes or pick your nose, then it's an Alcatraz autopsy with the questions asked later,' Martin Amis, Money, 1984... this is also a metaphor.

Raymond Chandler

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."Farewell, My Lovely, 1940, (Chapter 13)... this is also a metaphor.

"I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor." Raymond Chandler, 'Pearls Are a Nuisance', 1939... this is an extended metaphor.

"She's a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she's washed her hair since Coolidge's second term, I'll eat my spare tire, rim and all." Farewell, My Lovely, 1940, Raymond Chandler (Chapter  6)... this is also a simile.

'Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.' Farewell, My Lovely, 1940, Raymond Chandler (Chapter 1)... this is also a simile.

Hyperbole, 'To His Coy Mistress', Andrew Marvell
'I would love you ten years before the flood'
'my vegetable empire should grow vaster than empires and more slow'
'an hundred years should go to praise thine eyes... thirty thousand on the rest'
'though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run'

Hyperbole, Shakespeare's Sonnets
Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day
'But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest' (you will live forever)
Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds
'love... bears it out [will survive] to the edge of doom'
'If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.'
Sonnet 129: The Expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame
'...lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
... leads men to this hell'
Sonnet 147: My love is as a Fever longing Still
'My love is as a fever...disease...frantic-mad'
'desire is death'
she is 'black as hell as dark as night'

this one is mine...

'I’m not sure where my mum learned to cook. What mad chef, in what feverish land of sweats and shakes and vomiting, devised this slap-and-dash to the toilet approach to perfectly edible ingredients? It’s a special kind of alchemy. Take a plump red steak, then freeze it hard. Remove from the freezer five minutes after mealtime and blast it in the microwave till the outer layer is brown, rubbery and bubbling. Plop it in a pan when the oil is about to burst into flames then wait till the smoke alarm goes off. Chisel it out and you’re ready to prepare the salad.' [read more]