Hyperbole is a lexical stylistic device in which emphasis is achieved through deliberate exaggeration, or an overstatement. Hyperbole is usually not intended to be taken literally.
Hyperbole is one of the common expressive means of our everyday speech (e.g. “I have told it to you a thousand times” or “I could sleep for a year”). Due to long and repeated use hyperboles have lost their originality. Hyperbole can be expressed by all notional parts of speech.
It is important that both communicants should clearly perceive that the exaggeration serves not to denote actual quality or quantity but signals the emotional background of the utterance. If this reciprocal understanding is absent, hyperbole turns into a mere lie.
Hyperbole is aimed at exaggerating quantity or quality. When it is directed the opposite way, when the size, shape, dimensions, characteristic features of the object are not overrated, but intentionally underrated, we deal with understatement.
Understatement is a phrase that minimizes the content of the message, using restrained or weak phrases. It is often used for rhetorical effects, and the tone is often ironic or sarcastic (e.g. one may say “it is a little warm outside”, when actually the temperature is well over 40 degrees Celsius).
English is well known for its preference for understatement in everyday speech. “I am rather annoyed” instead of “I’m infuriated’, “The wind is rather strong” instead of “There’s a gale blowing outside” are typical of British polite speech, but are less characteristic of American English.
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