Say What?

I saw this today on Twitter and have to say I more or less agree:

Obviously, we live in an age of hyperbole, and the obvious question is how come we overstate?

American optimism?

Media saturation?

Ennui?

A compulsion to spraypaint the mundane?

Of course, I have no idea, and certainly eyewitness Judy occasionally informed me the anecdote recently shared had been embellished. Though I hadn’t meant to — it had not been a conscious augmentation — No, I remember distinctly it was a Rottweiler, not miniature schnauzer. I can see the drool dripping from the corner of his all-too-audible snarl.

Could probably pass a polygraph.

Maybe could pass.

No doubt would fail.

Anyway, I’m sort of a pessimist, so the first three words on the above list I rarely use, except in class when I explain that “awesome” has no meaning because it can refer to anything ranging from a neat pair of sneakers to a twin-star double supernova. (I also inform students that “thing” can refer to anything from bellybutton lent to the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

So my hyperfication (good luck looking it up) of language most frequently falls into the realm of describing the unpleasant.

When I say . . .

Horrific      

It means . . .

Unpleasant, like  encountering a family of five all dressed in identical orange Clemson sweatshirts and sweatshirts)

When I say . . .

I’ve lost the will to live! 

It means . . .

I need a nap.

When I say . . .  

Menacing

It means . . .

Rather aloof          

Of course, the kingmaster of overstatement is our President. As far as negatives go, Trump’s go-to pejorative is “disaster.” Here’s a sampling via Quartz from the first presidential debate:

  • “Our energy policies are disaster.”
  • “Your regulations are disaster, and you’re going to increase regulations all over the place.”
  • “[Libya] was another one of [Clinton’s] disasters.”
  • “We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster.”

C’mon, Donald. You can do better:

Your energy policies are the equivalent of the Yellow River Flood of 1887 that killed 900,000 Chinese citizens!

Your regulations bring to mind that 68-year-old woman fractured both legs and an arm while exiting the ride vehicle of Peter Pan’s Flight.

Anyway, I’m sure someone in the social sciences or philosophy (probably Steven Pinker) is studying just why we construct such mountainous molehills in our speech.

Get to it, ladies and gentlemen/Steven.  Enquiring minds and all that jazz.

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