A hyperbole is used regularly in both, written and oral communication. When we want to emphasize on something, we use a hyperbole. A hyperbole, as a figure of speech, or as a rhetorical device, is used in literature (poetry and prose) to emphasize on something. This emphasis is achieved by the use of extreme exaggeration.
Know Your Basics!
Hyperbole is derived from the word hyperbole (L. & Gk.).
We can say that hyperboles are literary devices that aren’t to be taken literally. Usually used in works of fiction, a hyperbole adds color and more meaning to a character or the story as a whole. A part of the figurative language (language that is not literal in meaning), a hyperbole becomes a great tool in creative writing. Now, let’s look at a few examples.
Famous Examples of Hyperbole
“At that time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century.”
– Gabriel García Márquez, Living to Tell the Tale
Here, the claim that ‘rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century’ is an obvious exaggeration.
“Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before.”
– Opening of the American folktale ‘Babe the Blue Ox’
Here, the ‘geese flying backward’, ‘snow turning blue’, ‘words freezing’, and ‘waiting for sunrise to find out what was being said’ are all hyperboles, as none of these actually happen.
“Auden on Endless Love
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
Here, we know that China and Africa can never meet and that oceans will never be hung to dry. These ideas are impossible. The poet has implied this ‘impossibility’ as the depth of his love. Here, hyperbole is used as a rhetorical device.
“I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. I was quaking from head to foot, and could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far.”
– Mark Twain, Old Times on the Mississippi
Here, the author has added humor to his predicament, and to describe it has said, ‘…could have hung my hat on my eyes’.
“A man can have a belly you could house commercial aircraft in and a grand total of eight greasy strands of hair, which he grows real long and combs across the top of his head so that he looks, when viewed from above, like an egg in the grasp of a giant spider, plus this man can have B.O. to the point where he interferes with radio transmissions, and he will still be convinced that, in terms of attractiveness, he is borderline Don Johnson.”
– Dave Barry, Revenge of the Pork Person
Here, the author has described a character using a comparison that is a hyperbole: ‘a belly you could house commercial aircraft in’.
“My toaster has never once worked properly in four years. I follow the instructions and push two slices of bread down in the slots, and seconds later they rifle upwards. Once they broke the nose of a woman I loved dearly.”
– Woody Allen, ‘My Speech to the Graduates’ featured in The New York Times
Here, ‘rifle up’ is an extreme alternative to ‘pop up’. Also, there is little to no possibility that the nose of a woman broke with a piece of toast. This is a fine example of hyperbole being used to add humor to a statement.
10 Simple Hyperbole Examples for Kids
~Have you realized you always walk at the speed of a snail?
~I have been trying to complete this since the Stone Age.
~After the holidays, I’m sure a whale would weigh less than me.
~Hundreds of tears flowed down her cheeks that day.
~The car was decorated with a million flowers.
~Her mile-wide smile could make anyone’s heart melt instantly.
~Her nails were so long she could tap people on the back with them.
~Sometimes I really believe that your brain is the size of a pea.
~Whenever I went to the library, I would see him buried under a mountain of paperwork.
Hyperbole Examples in Advertising
iPhone 5: Browse, download and stream content at blazing-fast speeds.
Samsung GALAXY Camera: Shoot, Edit and Share instantly to get a thousand likes on your photos!
Camel: I’d walk a mile for a camel.
Citi: Citi never sleeps.
Citgo: There at every turn.
Esso: Put a tiger in your tank.
Sherwin Williams: Cover the earth.
321 East: How good is our steak? Last week a man who was choking on a piece refused the Heimlich Maneuver.
As we have seen, all these hyperbole examples tell us how exaggeration can be used to convey the exact meaning through magnified implication. A simple statement can seem dramatic with the use of a hyperbole. These examples will not only help you understand certain texts, but also improve your command over the written language.