definition: hyperbole

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What do you think of writing nowadays?

Poll ended at Wed Jul 31, 2002 10:36 am

Freedom of Speech, everyone can say what they think they mean!
2
17%
Overuse of emotional words dilutes lanquage'e meaning and stifles thought.
8
67%
Who Cares?
2
17%
 
Total votes : 12

definition: hyperbole

Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 10:36 am

hy-per-bo-le n [L, fr, Gr...]: extravagant exaggeration (as "mile-high ice cream cones") - Webster's Collegiate, 10th ed.

About a few threads lately that have, to be clear, really pissed people off:

1) If one dislikes the 9th Cirquit Court's decision, why say something like "The Court is fundamentally challenging the very moral fibers of our great nation in a liberal godless attempt to undermine our children's souls" when "My family, freinds, and I kind of prefer the God in the Pledge" would be more honest?

2) If one likes Mac computers, why say "PC guys are Wintel slaves perpetuating a monopoly of Evil corporations raping consumers" when "I like Macs" would be more honest?

3) If one is uncomfortable with a woman posting how her personal tragedy has made her touchy about cutesy titles for females, why use "feminazi" when "sensitive" would do the job?

What I'm trying to get at is; when terms like "evil" or "nazi" or "moral fibers" or "slaves" or "rape" are used to describe fairly normal differences in opinion, the only possibility is a (usually non-productive) escalation of anger and hard feelings.

Are we so addicted to drama that we can't say what we mean plainly? Are we so linguistically trigger-happy that we have to trot out the nukes in every shoving match?

George Orwell wrote an excellent essay on this matter, but he was speaking more of obfuscation through "academic" writing that hides meaning under clauses and descriptors until the point is lost (I'm guilty, I know). What about the other side, when we apply the political party abbreviation of the worst large-scale social event of human history to a woman who doesn't like the word "gals"?

-edit- add apathy option -edit-
nrobison
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 11:44 am

Exactly, nrobison. Thank you.

Lenny Bruce had a valid point about the power of words, and he started a trend which has removed much of the mystique and shock from some of them; yet we haven't got anything useful to replace "the F-word", have we, and it's used absolutely everywhere but daytime broadcast TV now.

And just as the art of cursing has been damaged by the dilution of its vocabulary, much rational discussion is now quickly abandoned in favor of hyperbole.

We complain that "Islamofascists" are too rabid to reason with, and fail to notice that many of us are guilty of the same sort of linguistic crimes... and yes, the quoted word is a deliberate example.
TwoFer
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 11:59 am

Whew!

Nrobinson, your questions are well poised.

As the age of communication speeds our thoughts to action within an eyeblink, I believe that Western society is more prone to misuse and abuse language to provoke a desired (or even undesired) response. It's simply too easy to communicate without proofing what has been said.

Add to that the relative anonymity of clacking away behind the veil of a monitor and keyboard/keypad, and you've removed the foremost motivation to moderate our speech.

Last, our exposure to media and entertainment encourages us to use inflamatory or dramatic language whenever possible. We can't sell banality - we are too easily distracted by the bright colors and strong words that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Just look at the names of laundry detergents - Biz, Fab, Bold, Cheer, etc. Add the word "Ultra" to these products and you have an unstoppable combination. Of course, all we really want these products to do is make our clothes less stinky and remove that ketchup stain.

We owe it to ourselves to moderate our tone in speech and writing and consider the impact before clicking on "Submit".

So take that, you buncha scum-sucking uber-lackey slaves to the Corporate Ogre! (insert emoticon here)
Satchmo
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 12:46 pm

Thanks, gentlemen. Bump - perhaps this thread should be read a few times before death?
nrobison
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 12:49 pm

jsbach11 has just linked it over in the Men's Rights thread -- in response to Lao Tze's "what are we going to have??? Perhaps quadrapelegic firefighters and police???" comment.

Appropriate... and I think there may be further comments.
TwoFer
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 12:56 pm

I might just clarify a bit WRT Lao Tze's post - while it is hyperbole, it is at least original and does bring a vivid image to mind - vivid images are great and make metaphorical/analogical writing worth reading. The real trouble IMHO is in easy, canned terms that contain very serious content, but are used so commonly that that content loses its point - slavery is a big, big, big thing folks - and though everyone else has used it thus, it does not describe an Apple computer purchase very well!
nrobison
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 1:03 pm

Very interesting post. The only thing I disagree with is:

when terms like "evil" or "nazi" or "moral fibers" or "slaves" or "rape" are used to describe fairly normal differences in opinion, the only possibility is a (usually non-productive) escalation of anger and hard feelings.


Responding in kind or escalating the situation is not the only possibility. It is possible to either 1) not respond or 2) respond without emotion. Take your second example:

PC guys are Wintel slaves perpetuating a monopoly of Evil corporations raping consumers


Rather than take that as a personal attack, respond to the actual argument -- that using a PC means a person supports Windows and Intel. Simple, unemotional rebuttal: I use a PC and run Linux on my AMD chipset (no support of Windows or Intel). No emotional response, just a simple rebuttal.


Why do many feel it necessary to use such hyperbole? I have two ideas about that.

First, Freedom of Speech does not necessarily mean you will be heard or paid attention to. It is not the freedom to speak that many want, it is the attention to what they have said (whether positive or negative). I find it interesting that you included the word apathy at the end. So many of our society's extremes are an attempt to overcome a general apathy and get attention. Movies, advertising, roller coasters, extreme sports, newspaper headlines, and forum trolls are just symptoms. Why is society so apathetic to begin with?

Second, these wouldn't be topics of interest if there wasn't disagreement. If the facts were 100% clear and indisputable, it would not be an issue. Because each side believes it has "facts" that prove it's argument and the "facts" to disprove the other's "fallacies", it is an issue. We all want to be right about thing - to believe we know what we are talking about. So, an issue that we believe in becomes an emotional investment. That leads to emotional arguments and hyperbolic posts.
God in Training
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 1:17 pm

I might just clarify a bit WRT Lao Tze's post - while it is hyperbole, it is at least original and does bring a vivid image to mind
True enough; the problem is that it also ridicules the position he's attacking, thus robbing it of any credibility it might have. It's only a short step from there to what you've brought up, nrobison -- since the argument's down, everybody might as well kick it a bit...
TwoFer
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Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2002 4:33 pm

I believe that "It may sound silly but they are already using criteria which may not pick the best person for the job." was not quoted and is yet relevant... I didn't mean for the statement to be emotionally charged, but rather to encite thought. If I wanted to rouse emotions I would have said:

How secure would you feel when a your children are caught in a vicious fire, smoke consuming everything in sight, and a quadrapilegic is the only one in whom the fate of your childrens, your pet dog "Duke", and the normalcy of the rest of your life lays. The fireman can't access the building as there are no ramps. You clench in anguish as cries of help and screams of agony echo throughout the area. You realize that PC'ers have done this, seeing as you have lost everything you throw yourself into the fire to end your miserable life. As the fumes rapes you of life you realize this is the only option truly left.

of course I would have been laughed at...
:oops: -Lao
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