Hyperbole and speech
This article is about hyperbole. Overstatement. Exaggeration.
Etc. We use it, a lot. In this paragraph, I am not using it. Why? To prove
a point. What point? Well, funny you ask. It is hard to say. Why hard
to say? Well
OK, the reason is "simply" this: I am completely
and totally incapable of constructing any kind of sentence without adding
flourishes and overstatements. This is in fact a characteristic of our
entire generation. We do not seem able to express ourselves in any small
way without expressing ourselves in a big huge enormous way, which ultimately
seems to suggest that we are terrified of how boring we might turn out
to be, were we to express ourselves in humble, simple, normal terms. And
this is really too bad.
Let me preface the rest of this by saying that I am well
aware that I am the prototypical example/victim of hyperbolic speech.
Every sentence (yes, every single last one of them) out of my mouth will
be just one more example of the phenomenon I am attempting to describe.
So please save your accusations of hypocrisy for all the other moments
in my life when I actually deserve them.
Illustrations of this observation:
"I had to get up at the ass-crack of dawn."
"That class made me want to vomit on myself."
Explode? Have we just lost touch with what our words actually
mean? To explode in the dining hall is perhaps a more dramatic action
than we are imagining when we make such offhand remarks. I assure you
that when I say this at dinner, as I often do, I am not imagining myself
bursting into a fiery ball of flame next to the sundae bar. (Ha-if I did,
do you think the lights in Thorne would go into party mode to add to the
effect? That would be neat.)
So you all know, there are a good 11 or 12 people on this
campus, each of whom I consider and advertise as the Best Person I Have
Ever Met. And conversely, a typical Sarah Ramey comment:
I'd really have to say that Ronda Phelpsberger
is definitively the worst person at Bowdoin College."
"I though Brad Von Schneidel was definitively the worst
person you knew."
But anyway, why this need for total exaggeration to the
point of absurdity? Is it just because we don't have anything truly alarming
in our own lives? We create an abstract, fantastical threat to make us
feel as if we are pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and really
toughing something out?
"Oh man, you don't even know. The bubonic plague is
but a wee kiddie virus in comparison to the demon-creature that is currently
wreaking havoc on my immune system. At any minute now, I'd say it is well
within the realm of possibility that my face will just fall off. Fall
right off. I'm not kidding. Starting with my eyes. Then maybe my teeth,
quickly followed by my disease-ridden nose."
Or like I said before, are we just worried that we won't
be able to hold anyone's attention otherwise?
"The apple I ate at lunch was pretty big" becomes
"Yo, I had the most ginormous apple at lunch today. You don't even
A clever little amalgamation of words that, while cute and
perhaps mildly amusing, is entirely unnecessary and misrepresentative.
It is as if "gigantic" or "enormous" could not fully
capture the enormity of an apple.
And it is essential to point out that I really "don't
even know;" I cannot even begin to conceive of what it would be like
to know how super-gigantor-enormous that apple was.
While I know very few people who have escaped from this
bizarre trend's clutches, it really isn't some tragic, irreparable flaw
of Generation X .(Wait, are we even Gen X? I think I've asked that question
before and I always turn my ears off immediately after my mouth stops
feel that I do that a lot
"Hi, nice to meet you..." Di
doo di doo di doo 'EAR SHUT DOWN COMPLETED'
anyways, what generation
are we? How about Generation Awesome? I mean if we don't have a name,
Generation Awesome gets my vote.)
So, the sad truth of it all, for me, is really the personal realization that no one believes or takes me seriously now. I'm the boy who cried wolf. But a girl. Who cried that her history exam was so difficult she was seriously considering flushing her face down the toilet for approximately eight hours.