Join Me on My Campaign to End Hyperbolic Language
by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, president
During the seemingly never-ending election season we just finished, we heard a lot of “worst ever” and “best ever” comments, neither of which were true in most cases. (And don’t worry, this isn’t a political post; I’ll let others handle that quagmire.) But it did make me start noticing how often we are bombarded by messages, marketing and otherwise, that seem to promise the impossible. Here are a few of the ones that frustrate me, but this is just scratching the surface. I’d love to see your additions in the comments.
Let’s all give this 110%
This is an oldie but a goodie. The sheer nature of something being 100% means that it is complete and all you can give. It is impossible to give more, so asking for it makes you look like an idiot that doesn’t understand math in its most basic form.
The plane is extremely full today
I’ve been flying quite a bit lately and have heard this one more than a couple of times. Each time it makes me snicker. If the plane is full, by definition every seat is sold and will be occupied. There is no option for standing room on a plane, so adding the adjective “extremely” is ridiculous.
Today we are going to do the impossible
No, we are not. If something is truly impossible, that means it can’t be done. It can be difficult, challenging, strenuous or even grueling, but doing the impossible is simply, well, impossible.
The most important thing you’ll see, read, experience, etc.
Not likely. Unless it is the plan to avoid certain death, I highly doubt anything that is labeled like this is the most anything you’ll see, especially most important. It might be interesting, it might even be critical to know, but in most cases where this phrase is used it is rarely either.
I’m going to show you something very unique
Well, let‘s get this show on the road then. I can’t wait to see something that is so different that it defies the definition of unique. You see, if something is unique, it is one of a kind. So to say something is “very one of a kind” is absurd. It either is distinctive or not, there’s no “very” about it.
We were waiting forever
Really? I didn’t realize we have reached the end of time. While you may have had to wait much longer than you expected or wanted to, you weren’t waiting forever because that is impossible, and we’ve already determined that we can’t do the impossible, right? So yes, you had to wait for a long time, forever is was certainly not.
I’m literally starving
I saved this one for last since every time I hear it misused I want to scream. And yes, I judge the person using this word incorrectly as well. While you may be hungry and really ready to eat, I doubt you are so malnourished that you are actually starving. Frankly, it’s highly unlikely users are legitimately experiencing anything that this word is put in front of so often. No, you didn’t literally die. Nor did you literally explode with rage. I could go on, but I’m getting literally tired.
Language is a beautiful thing and it should be respected. There are so many amazing ways to communicate all of the above sentiments without falling prey to this level of silly hyperbole. It is time to expand our vocabularies and pull up the online thesaurus so we can communicate clearly and accurately, don’t you think?
So what do you have to add to this list? I’d enjoy seeing what you have to add.