Hyperbole and Meiosis

Hyperbole (pronounced high-PURR-buh-lee) is a literary device that expresses an exaggeration, where something is made out to be much more than it really is.

Example:
Every Monday morning my Outlook inbox has a million messages from my boss.

The fact is, there were probably 17 of them scattered throughout, but it was so overwhelming after a long weekend that it felt like a million.

Generally speaking, one should try to avoid hyperbole in technical reports and published articles, sticking to just the facts instead. However, hyperbole can be quite useful in personal emails, blogs, and fiction because much emotion can be conveyed by using this literary device, as shown in the example above.

The opposite of hyperbole is meiosis (pronounced my-OH-sis), which is an understatement. On the way home from work yesterday I noticed a funny example of meiosis, which I simply had to share with y’all. They recently tore down the Burger King building on the corner a couple blocks from here, but the big sign out front is still standing. It says: “Closed for remodeling.” That is a bit of an
understatement!

As with hyperbole, meiosis should be avoided in technical reports and published articles, which should always convey the proper perspective in the correct order of magnitude. However, there are occasions when downplaying the magnitude may be in order, such as when humility or humor are the goal.

Examples:
Steve Jobs was blessed with ideas for products that sold a few dozen here and there.

“Why is there broken glass in the break room?”
“Bubba was a little miffed because the coffee pot was empty again.”

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for examples of hyperbole and meiosis, and send them to me so I can share them with the rest of the Peanut Gallery.

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