Today’s Daily Prompt: Hyperbole
I used to tutor elementary-level English. Hyperboles are fun and add spice to creative writing.
Little Billy didn’t just love soccer, soccer was everything to him.
Mrs. Smith has taught for over thirty years? She’s been teaching since the middle ages.
Sally won’t just get into trouble when she goes home, her mom will kill her.
Hyperboles are exaggerations. They’re not supposed to be taken seriously, which is what also makes some common hyperboles sad if we really think about it.
Common statements such as, “We’ll be best friends forever”, “I will never hurt you”, or even “I am always there for you” are technically all hyperboles.
Realistically, there are no forevers, no never’s, no always. You can’t be best friends with someone for all of eternity, people who say they won’t hurt you at some point will, and it’s impossible for someone to really always be there for you.
What is perhaps even more ironic is that usually when we say these things, we don’t think of them as a hyperbole. We want the other person to know we’re serious when we say, “I’ll die without you” or “I cried all night”. We get touched when someone tells us, “I’ll love you to the moon and back” or “I will do anything and everything for you”. Of course, we don’t take these things literally, we just learn to understand the essence of what they mean.
This person really loves me. This person is very upset. This person is angry, hungry, cold, etc. All the basic emotions are heightened through a hyperbole in order to evoke a stronger emotion, a more memorable imprint in our hearts.
For example, take a read at this snippet of a poem by W.H. Auden. It is famous for the use of hyperboles:
‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
– W. H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening
If we try to be realistic in a romantic context, we end up saying, “We’ll just love each other for a long time” or “I miss you but I’ll still be alive if we don’t see each other”. It just doesn’t sound as good, does it? Realism at its finest, but romanticism is out the window.
Not just in poetry, hyperboles are a necessary ingredient to beautiful literature. It’s what paints a more detailed picture in our minds when we read about a place. It’s what helps us feel the pain a character goes through as if it was happening to us or someone we really care about. So even though hyperboles are kind of a lie, we still use them and we still love to hear them.
I guess we’re just not ready for too much reality in this world.
P.S. Yeah, I know this whole post was filled with hyperboles – we can’t escape them!