What are hyperbolas used for?

Hyperbole: definition, effect & 10 examples of the stylistic device

A hyperbola is a rhetorical stylistic device that expresses exaggeration. It is used with pleasure and often in everyday language and literature. We will tell you how to recognize a hyperbola, what effects it has and what functions it can fulfill.

A hyperbola is one strong exaggeration and thus the opposite of an understatement. If something is exaggerated in the rhetoric, it can be described as "hyperbolic" or as a hyperbolic figure.

Most hyperbolas appear in the form of comparisons or metaphors. They can also be used as ironic or comical means. We'll tell you everything you need to know about the hyperbola, explain its effects and how it works, and we have many Examples of correct application and interpretation for you.

Definition: what a hyperbola is

What a stylistic device a hyperbola is

The hyperbola describes one in an exaggerated way feeling or one Strong increase in impression. It works by having a comical or dramatic effect and reducing credibility. The The opposite of the hyperbole is the understatement, also called litotes.

Hyperbolas belong to the so-called Tropics, of a certain class rhetorical means. Trope means ‘phrase’ and denotes the replacement of an expression with a similar, pictorial description.

This description does not have to be single term be, which is synonymous with the expression; it can too Word fields, phrases or sentences be. These do not directly describe what is meant, but rather describe the actual message.

An example of a hyperbola is “I could drink a whole tub of water now”. This statement shows in an exaggerated way that the speaker is very thirsty. Other tropes are, for example, euphemism, irony, metaphor and personification.

Effect and function of a hyperbola

Generally speaking, rhetorical means have the Function to emphasize a certain text passage and its content and make it more eye-catching. The resulting effect sometimes arises by chance, through personal interpretation or it is used specifically by authors to achieve a certain effect.

In any case, you can Interpreting stylistic devices and in theirs Break down the effect. In this way, an intention of the author, the effect on the text itself or the effect on the reader, which is created by the rhetorical figure, can be determined.

In the case of the hyperbola, that is Main function the exaggeration. It is usually expressed as a comparison or a metaphor to make impressions or facts particularly clear. A separate function is the hyperbola as a comical increase. We'll tell you everything you need to know below.

The hyperbola as a metaphor

The hyperbola as a metaphor

A hyperbola often occurs in the form of a metaphor. The two stylistic devices have a reinforcing effect on one anotherby giving themselves more expressiveness. The metaphor transfers a term from one area of ​​meaning and transfers it to another. So can be a better picture or one more accurate impression to be created by something.

There are ‘Normal metaphors'like "the rose-colored glasses"that describes an exclusively positively veiled perception and there is ‘Hyperbolic metaphors' with exaggerated character. Here is "Solid as a rock" a good example. The metaphor conveys the imperturbability, strength and constancy of a person in a dramatic way and is reinforced by the image of a rock on which the waves break.

The hyperbola as a comparison

The hyperbola also often develops its effect through comparisons. Something familiar, for example an experience, is then associated with something impossible or a strong increase. Examples of this simple Comparison technique are:

  • “I'm serving the food today, thanks to my annual bonus I have now infinite Money in the account. "
  • “His eyes are like that deep and wild like the sea, whose power tries to penetrate the land.”

The second comparison is already metaphorical in that it creates an image and yet it draws a direct one Comparison by the "how". This hyperbola resembles the embellished and natural exuberance of romanticism and relates to the soul of the person who tries to penetrate through his eyes.

The hyperbola as an ironic and comical medium

Exaggerations are often used in comedy or irony. An ironic effect can be achieved by a hyperbola enhancing a statement so much that it drifts into the unthinkable. In this case it is irony mostly obvious and can be clearly interpreted. An example is:

Hyperbole as an ironic and comical medium

  • "Can you pick me up from Hamburg?"
    - “Sure, why not from Timbuktu?”

Here the answer to the first question lies in an ironic counter-question. She denies the request to pick the person up from Hamburg by equating the journey with a distant and difficult-to-reach place.

In the Comic the hyperbolic statements are not credible either, but are deliberately increased so that that Scenario better imaginable is. The reader or listener can easily empathize with the situation and get along with the Exaggeration of the punchline surprised. In its simplest form, this rhetorical approach is found in jokes. Here's an example:

  • A man has an interview at Deutsche Bahn and is 15 minutes late. If the HR manager asks: "Do you know that you are 15 minutes late?", The applicant says: "Yes and I don't care." - HR manager: "You are hired!" (You can find more good jokes here)

Difference to the Amplificatio

The Amplificatio is also called an extension and is a exaggerated rhetorical expansion of a statement. It is not necessary for understanding, but should clarify the urgency of the statement through a larger number of words and a more intensive description.

An amplificatio is also not a single stylistic device, but mostly strings different stylistic devices such as the enumeratio (list), descriptio (description) or the allegory. The difference to the hyperbola is that the Amplificatio is a Exaggeration in their detail is, while the hyperbola is an exaggeration in terms of content, which is not characterized by a high number of words. Examples are:

  • "It was tough. It was really not easy, almost impossible. So difficult that I thought I couldn't do it."
  • Instead of "I was really scared at home alone", to write, "I was home alone and winced at every noise. It was dark and I was so scared that I didn't even dare to take a step. I just stood there, hoping that my parents would come home soon. "

Areas of application of hyperbolas

The hyperbola can be found as a rhetorical device above all in literature

You come across hyperbolas again and again in life - whether in a scientific paper, a presentation or a specialist thesis. You pull through all literary epochsand always offer a lot of potential for argumentation. Hyperbolas are from both the literature as well as ours everyday life indispensable. The Advertising language uses them and they are firmly integrated into idioms and proverbs.

As a stylistic device in literature

You will find rhetorical means that are easy to interpret, especially in literature. they offer Clues for your interpretationand serve as Arguments for your analysis. This can be, for example, poetry analysis, factual text analysis, scene analysis, novel analysis or short story analysis. You will come across them in school or in humanities courses.

Hyperbolas serve to one in literature particularly strong expression of feelings or images. That is why they were often used, especially in the epoch of Sturm und Drang and Romanticism. There they served to express exuberant euphoria, enthusiasm for nature and religious worship.

Expressionism also tended to use hyperbolic comparisons to shock readers and create drastic images. Well-known writers like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or E. T. A. Hoffmann liked to use them in their works. You can find examples of this in the corresponding chapter of this article.

In everyday and advertising language

In everyday language, the hyperbola is usually found in the form of Comedy, irony, idioms or proverbs. Some of them are already firmly integrated into our language usage. An example of a phrase is: "There the bear tapps / dances". This exaggerated statement means that there is a lot going on in one place, something special is taking place there, or that there are simply a lot of people gathered there.

A metaphorical hyperbole that is common in everyday life is "Behave like an elephant in a china shop"when you're clumsy or inconsiderate. Proverbs with a hyperbolic effect are "advice is also a blow." or "Better dumb than stupid."

Our everyday life also includes advertising and hyperbolas are used with preference in advertising language because they are memorable and clear. For example, Toyota got its name recognition in 1985 with the advertising slogan "Nothing is impossible toyota." increase by 176 percent in just a few weeks. Other hyperbolic slogans are:

  • Ariel Detergent: “Not only does it wash clean, it does the laundry.”
  • IKEA furniture store: "Are you still living or are you already living?"
  • Red Bull energy drinks: "Red Bull gives you wings."
  • VW Beetle: “And runs. And runs. And runs. "

The hyperbola: 10 examples

10 examples of the hyperbola

In this chapter we have put together ten different examples for you of which the Effect of the hyperbola is particularly well illustrated. This includes terms and idioms from everyday language, quotations or stylistic means from literature, for example from Goethe or E. T. A. Hoffmann. We have each explains the meaning of the hyperbola for you.

1. "I've waited for you a hundred years."
This hyperbola should express how long it seemed to the speaker that he was waiting for the recipient of the message. In addition, the speaker is probably referring to the actual time the recipient was late, which seems to be relatively long to him.

2. "The trading card is like a dime a dozen."
This exaggeration is intended to express that the trading card is nothing rare and can be found everywhere. That is why there is an exaggerated comparison with sand by the sea, which is probably the most common part of a beach.

3. "She has a melody that she plays on the piano with the power of an angel."
This quote from Goethe from “The Sorrows of Young Werther” (1774) expresses an exuberant enthusiasm. The musical talent of the woman is compared with the supernatural power of an angel and is supposed to emphasize the specialty and rarity.

4. “Blossoms rise / From every branch / And a thousand voices / From the bushes”
The quote from the poem “Mailied” (1774) by Goethe is a clear hyperbole, which is expressed by the number “thousand”. The lyrical self hears so many voices and sounds from the bushes that they seem like thousands to it.

5. “The sweet words were like singing. As I spoke, the expression of the dark blue eye increased, and each flash of lightning that shone from it poured a torrent of embers inside me. "
This quote by E. T. A. Hoffmann from the artist's novella “Don Juan” (1813) expresses the hyperbolic exuberance of Romanticism very well. His pictorial formulations describe the urgency and effect of the “sweet words” on the speaker's inner workings.

6. “A sea of ​​fire chases / Through a street.”
These lines come from Georg Heym's expressionist poem “Der Gott der Stadt” (1910). They show the metaphorical functioning of the hyperbola very well. The wording creates an exaggerated image that is intended to stimulate the reader's imagination. The threatening flames of the fire are combined with the rapid, advancing (chasing) sea movements that rage in the city.

Different examples of the hyperbola - simply explained

7. “As soon as a person has finally lost his influence, a monument is set up for him.”
This quote comes from Robert Musil and appears cynical and drastic in its exaggeration, but also haunting and very clear in its meaning. His statement is a criticism of the fact that important people are only honored after their death.

8. "I'd rather fly to the moon than you learn to quilt."
This hyperbola is related to probability. It is very unlikely that the speaker will fly to the moon. He suggests that the ability to learn to tap is even less likely for the addressee. So he rates his quilting ability as almost impossible.

9. "Snail's pace"
The snail's pace describes a state of speed. It should express how slowly something happens by comparing it with the slow speed of the snail.

10. "He was as thin as a toothpick."
The toothpick is an extreme, figurative comparison with a thin person whose proportions are reminiscent of him.

Opposite of the hyperbola: the litotes

The term "litotes" means Restraint or simplicity. The litotes is a rhetorical device that, like the hyperbola, belongs to the tropics. However, it has a different function and effect. It expresses itself either as an affirmation through double negation, the negation of the opposite, or as an emphasis through understatement. Examples of the double negative are:

  • "I wouldn't like to go to this concert."
  • "I just can't believe she isn't in love with him."
  • "He's not exactly wrong with his argument."

Examples of the Negation of the opposite is:

  • "This soup is really not bad."
  • "This plant is not uncommon in the area."
  • "We don't have a little parsley in the garden at the moment, should I bring you something?"

The effects here can simply be the emphasis on the message or a funny effect. In the case of very nested sentences, a complicated way of thinking can also be indicated. This way of speaking is relevant for characterization, for example.

Another form of litotes is emphasis by understatement. An example of this is:

  • "You can show yourself in that dress."
  • "I'm trying to cook something delicious for you from the two ingredients I have at home."
  • "Really nice house, not bad."

The last example is actually the phrase for “wow, you have a really great house”. The modesty on the outer conceptual level is understood as a compliment due to the flattering meaning behind it. Likewise, one can understand the first example as "You look really great in that dress." can be rated. The second example is simply a numerical understatement to emphasize that it can be difficult to cook something nice with the leftovers at home.

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