Trope: Hyperbole soars high or sinks low

In Nuce: Hyperbole
Hopefully a gross exaggeration.
Hyperbole (hy-per'-bo-lee) is overkill.

J. Newbery, in Rhetoric Made Familiar and Easy, tells us that the word 'hyperbole' comes from a Greek word meaning 'to overshoot' or 'to exceed.' He gives us a grammatically awkward rhyme to help us remember both the definition and an example:
Hyperbole soars high, or sinks too low:
He touch'd
the Skies: A Snail don't crawl so slow

By this trope, says Newbery, 
...we go beyond the bounds of truth in representing things greater or smaller, better or worse than they really are, in order to raise admiration or love, fear or contempt.
Noah Webster contends that "hyperbole is the boldest of all tropes, for it exceeds the limits of truth, and represents things greater or less, better or worse, than they are. But the representation is made in such a manner as not to deceive and mislead the reader or hearer."

When using or evaluating hyperbole, keep in mind the following suggestions from Albert Newton Raub:

  1. Hyperbole should be used sparingly.—The continued use of hyperbole not only tires the ear, but also leads the reader to doubt the statements of the writer.
  2. The terms of an hyperbole should be consistent.— Thus, we should not speak of one's being powerful weak, or of the weather's being as cold as blazes, or of persons' being exquisitely ugly, and the like. 
  3. In order to have force, an hyperbole should be briefly expressed.—The effect of an hyperbole is lost when too many words are used as preliminary to the hyperbola itself. 
  4. Hyperbole is not appropriate to scientific statements.
Examples of hyperbole:
  1. Falstaff, thou globe of flesh, spotted o'er with continent of sin.—Shakespeare. 
  2. Here Orpheus sings; trees, moving to the sound, Start from their roots, and form a shade around.—Pope. 
  3. They (Saul and Jonathan) were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.
  4. His mind was a vast magazine of knowledge.
  5. The sky shrunk upward with unusual dread,
    And trembling Tiber dived beneath his bed.—Dryden. 
  6. The diamonds in thine eyes might furnish crowns for all the queens of earth.
  7. I saw their chief, tall as a rock of ice; his spear, the blasted fir; his shield, the rising moon: he sat on the shore like a cloud of mist on the hill.— Ossian.

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