Hyperbole: Making a Point Memorable

            A hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration to make a point. For example, my father was very quiet and rarely joined family conversations. My mother would get frustrated with his behavior and would often say, "Paul never opens his head!"  When I think of someone speaking little, I think of this hyperbole. That is why the hyperbole is so powerful in a speech. You want to have lines that make people remember your point.

            In a speech to the Nobel Prize winners in 1962, President Kennedy said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."  As you can determine from this example, hyperbole is often humorous as well, which adds to the impact of the point.

            Watching Alan Alda in the movie, "Tower Heist," reminded me of his autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, when he was describing a movie flop he made. Note the hyperbole: "We finished the picture, and it was released directly into obscurity. I heard that it played on an airplane over Pittsburgh, and I imagined people strapping on parachutes and jumping to get away from it."

            You can certainly find examples on the internet that you might borrow, but developing your own hyperboles is a great way to show your uniqueness in a speech

            The hyperbole is especially valuable to show how important an idea is, or, in the Alan Alda example, how bad something was. To show extremes and to add punch to your next presentation, think about using the hyperbole. I’ve acquired millions of fans just by using a clever hyperbole!

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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