So what does hyperbole mean? The hyperbole is perhaps one of the most widely recognized forms of figurative language and one that permeates everyday life through the advertising and entertainment industries. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for extra effect. The author can use hyperbole to add extra drama or comedy to a situation or even for the purpose of propaganda.
Hyperbole, like other figures of speech, is used to communicate ideas, emotions, and images in a more efficient way than through plain language. For example, an author might want to say that Mary lives in a large house. The reader knows that Mary lives in a big house, but that is all. No other context is given to explain how big the house is. Characteristics like size are often relative to the experiences of the reader and may not accurately portray what the author intends. For example, for a wealthy person who has lived in a mansion for all his life, a large house may mean something completely different than what a person with very little money may imagine. In this example, the author may want to use a hyperbole to frame his idea and give it context in order to allow the reader to better understand what he intends. In this case, the author may write, “Mary’s house is so big that the entire population of the city can fit into it.” By exaggerating the size of Mary’s house so dramatically, there is no question in the reader’s mind about how large Mary’s house is.
Hyperbole has been used throughout literature for many centuries. Heroic dramas, which are dramas with an emphasis on grandeur and excess, often make use of hyperbole to extend the effect and epic nature of the genre. Modern tall tales also make use of hyperbole to exaggerate the feats and characteristics of their protagonists. For example, the American tall tale about Paul Bunyan relies heavily on hyperbole to establish Bunyan’s giant stature and abilities. Hyperbole is also frequently used in comedy to offer a humorous description of somebody or something.
The fields of advertising and propaganda use hyperbole almost exclusively, which has led to it having a somewhat negative connotation. Typically advertisers or those writing propaganda use hyperbole to exaggerate the benefits or claims of their products in order to the boost sales, increase the image of, or increase the popularity of whatever they are advertising. The modern term “hype” is a shortened derivation of the term.
Hyperboles can often be combined successfully with similes and metaphors to increase their effectiveness, although an author must be careful not to use common phrases at the risk of being cliché. Also, exaggerations are only effective if the extent of it is outlandishly wild, otherwise, there would be no hyperbole. Like all figures of speech, when used correctly and in the proper context, hyperboles can be used to better express an author’s intentions and meaning.