Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hyperbole

I'm currently on disc 15 of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, and having a great time with it. To call him a master storyteller is understatement. Since Volume 1 is only 25 hours in length, I am curious how many more hours await when we get to Volume 2. Special thanks to narrator Grover Gardner for making this such a delightful diversion.

A literary device that Twain uses to great effect is hyperbole. Hyperbole is a fancy way of saying exaggeration. We do it all the time like when we say, "That suitcase weighs a ton. What do you have in there?"

During yesterday's commute he mentions getting hit with a rock thrown by his brother, adding that he got a knot on his head "the size of the Matterhorn." In an earlier section he went on and on at great length about being on a ship lost at sea in the Pacific in which they ran out of food for many days and survived by eating shoe leather and the knuckles of ham bones. When they finally reached land, he said the one man had eaten so much leather that strips of it were coming out of his ears. I'm pretty sure this was an exaggeration.

I looked up a few examples of hyperbole and we're all familiar with this literary device. For example, "the shot heard round the world" that started the Revolutionary War was probably not heard all the way around the world, though likely it was heard in England.

"I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." Even if I could eat a horse, I'm not sure I'd want to.

"He's as old as the hills." Hmmm... Maybe if you believe in the "young earth" theory of creation. In all likelihood, the hills are older than most of us.

"I'll just die if he asks me to dance." I personally do not recall seeing any girls die from being asked to dance when I was in school. I did see a girl almost die when she ate a chocolate covered bee when I was in high school. That's a serious allergic reaction there.

"I'm so tired I could sleep for a year." Go ahead and try it.

Twain once famously quipped, "I've seen this river so wide it had only one bank." That is a wide river, Mr. Twain. It probably took forever to get across it.

In the meantime, have a wonderful day. It's summertime.

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