Thursday, June 12, 2008

rhetorical devices, 101: hyperbole

"This is the happiest day of my life." Really? Are you sure? I mean, out of all your days on earth you're sure that this day, this particular day, is the one that gives you the best feeling of happiness (well-being, satisfaction, contentment and joy) you have ever experienced? Can you measure that happiness and back that up with some sort of empirical evidence - and can you be sure that this zenith of happiness will hold firm in the future?

"Oh my god, that was the worst sex ever." Really? Ever? In your lifetime of sexual activity, this one instance was measurably worse than (and exceeded the badness of) the sex you've had before? So bad that it may put you off sex forever? If you run an analysis of all your lovers, taking into consideration their various techniques and the quality of the sexage, will this one lover top the list as the worst, or just one of the worst?

"For the first time in my life, I am really proud of my country." Oh, please. You mean you have lived in a state of perpetual and uninterrupted dissatisfaction with this country since the day you were born? I mean, you haven't even felt a little swelling of pride during the Olympics?? And what makes this particular moment so great for you it erases all other, potential pride-inducing moments a country could give, huh?

"Mission: Accomplished." Sigh.

So. Out of all these dramatic, hyperbolic declarations, which one is the most damaging to our civic psyche? Which one exposes the speaker as a liar or, at least, someone with only a glancing familiarity with the truth?

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