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English Stylistics Class 2014. Hyperbole and Understatement


Ok, we discussed some new SDs : Periphrasis, Euphemism, Hyperbole, Understatement. But I want to talk more detailed about two - Hyperbole and Understatement.


Afigure of speech (a form of  irony). Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting” is a figure of speech, which involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis. It is a device that we employ in our day-to-day speech. Hyperbole is an unreal exaggeration to emphasize the real situation.


-They ran like greased lightning.

-His feet were as big as a barge.

-I ate the whole cow.

-Running faster than the speed of light.

-He is older than the hills.

-I have told you a million times not to lie!

-I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

-It is going to take a bazillion years to get through medical School.

-He's 900 years old.


An understatement is a figure of speech employed by writers or speakers to intentionally make a situation seem less important than it really is. An understatement usually has an ironic effect as an equally intense response is expected in severe situations but the statement in response is opposite i.e. less intense but of course with an ironical tone. An understatement is opposite to another figure of speech hyperbole or an overstatement.


-"It's a bit yellow" - while describing a very yellow canary.

-"There is some music by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony" - while describing Beethoven's famous work.

-"The desert is sometimes dry and sandy" - While describing the driest desert in the world.

-"It is just a little cool today" - when the temperature outside is 5° below zero.

-"The food was tolerable" - on the food that was prepared by the best chef in the world.

-"The cars drove at a fair clip" - while watching a car race.

-"I know a little about running a company" - comment by a successful businessman.

-"I think we have slightly different opinions on this topic" - instead of saying "I don't agree with you at all.

-"It was ok" - when a top ranker was asked about his exam results.

I found some  interesting movies about these SDs (website: youtube), I would like to share with you. It contains many useful information, examples. But I couldn’t download them and I advise you to see them.




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