It’s used mainly in comedy, and that’s where it should stay. However, if you are on the bus or in a mall or some other crowded place and you listen in on some of the conversations that some people have, you will notice that there are some things that they blow WAY out of proportion. Why? My guess is that people are attempting to adapt some forms of comedic style to their own speech, and it has caught on from there and become “the norm”. There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by a comedian you like or adopting his style (for a time), but you should learn to develop your own unique style and brand of comedy rather than copying someone else.
When it comes to telling stories or events that happened, some people go ballistic with exaggeration. Why aren’t we calling them out for it? Are we afraid about being seen as being “picky” about how people talk? I would think that our objective is to get people to think straight and not add what is not needed. Do you know how many rumors are started from pure exaggeration alone? I lived in a small town for 20 years; I know something about rumours and how they get started. After all, I participated in the spreading of rumours, but only for a short time. Then I got into grade 9 and realized that there were more important things to do and that leaving people alone and minding my own business was more productive.
I believe that exaggeration also figures into urban legends. I don’t think people who participate in this kind of storytelling are putting much thought into it or listening closely enough, and when they spread the news of what they’ve “heard” or “learned”, it’s no longer truth but a “distorted fact”. Then again, the lie has always been more interesting to hear than the truth. Check out this website for some debunking of popular myths and exaggerated stories:
We’ve got to consciously prevent the habit of not critically thinking and resorting to shooting off at the mouth (or hip). What happened to checking the facts? Researching? Challenging the story? Would it be a waste of time to do because of how short life (apparently) is? I myself would rather take the time to find out what’s really going on instead of passing on distorted, misleading information. QUESTION things! Haven’t we been told many times in high school that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”?
Read some chain letters that people forward to one another through email and see the blatant exaggeration for yourself. How is it that a person refuses (or forgets) to follow a chain letter and ends up dying because of it, yet their name is included in one of the many ‘horror stories’ in the letter? Chain letters are, I think, one of many methods of ‘scaring morality’ into people. I can understand if their purpose was to try and instill good thoughts and actions in people, but why add things like, “”If you don’t send this to X number of people in X number of minutes, something horrible will happen”? Why do the authors always try to instill fear? That’s the job of the mainstream media!
There are two types of exaggeration: over-exaggeration and under-exaggeration. I’d prefer the latter if I absolutely had to choose between the two, but I’d rather have the straight truth. Many times on the moving job I encounter people who tell me that there are only “a few things” to be moved, and then they show me what has to be moved…which turns out to be WAY MORE THAN A ‘FEW THINGS’. Why can’t people explain things as they really are? It may be that adding exaggeration makes whatever they’re talking about sound more exciting, more fun, and more interesting. Then again, some people simply cannot stop exaggerating once they’ve started.
Think of some of the biggest news stories of the ‘90’s; now imagine how many of them had “facts” that were greatly exaggerated by the media (as opposed to those “facts” that were downright fucking LIES or distortions of the truth or from “sources”, even though they can’t name those sources for some reason; sources = bullshit).
In advertising, exaggeration is a powerful tool that is sometimes used to attract attention or to make a product look or sound better than it actually is. People can get swept up into it quickly because it’s very easy to talk with vigor and energy about something that sounds fun and interesting! So that, perhaps, is why some people do it. Others, on the other hand, are very cunning and like to play mind games. They like to see other people believe what they’ve been told and like to watch those people tell others, spreading it like a virus. And, most times, when you’re the creator of something, you want to see how it spreads and mutates.
Let’s face it, some things are never going away: nuclear weapons, the word “like”, every style of fashion there is (because the fashion industry is out of ideas so they’re regurgitating clothes from past generations and they have the nerve to say that certain styles of clothing are “in” again), reality TV, taxes, bullshit politicians, and Starbucks. Exaggeration, as well, is here to stay (unfortunately) and it will be one of the many downfalls of future generations when it comes to communication, language, and the spread of accurate information.