Do you ever exaggerate when telling a story or writing a post? Do you add an embellishment here or there for the sake of the narrative, to help your readers relate, or to gain their sympathy?
When someone exaggerates, they are representing something (or someone) as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it (or he or she) really is.
Don’t most good storytellers exaggerate a little? They embellish their tales, perhaps in order to heighten the story’s interest or to make the deeds described within seem just a bit more dramatic, heroic, or comedic.
And, of course, comedians make use of exaggeration, amplification, and hyperbole to enhance the humor of their jokes and funny stories.
An exaggeration occurs when the most fundamental aspects of a statement are true, but only to a certain degree. It’s just “stretching the truth” a little, right?
For example, when a mother scolds her child and says, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times…” is that simply an exaggeration or is it a lie? After all, she may have told her kid that a lot, but certainly not a million times.
How about “I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse”? Or “You could have knocked me over with a feather”? Are these common idioms examples of exaggeration, hyperbole, or lies? Do we recognize and accept them because of how obvious it is that these are “exaggerations for effect”?
A fine line
But isn’t stretching the truth also lying and being dishonest? I think we can all agree that there is a fine line between exaggeration and lying. But if that’s the case, where does it fall and under what circumstances should it not be crossed?
I’ve heard some suggest that the difference between an exaggeration and a lie is that the former doesn’t cause any harm, whereas the latter does. Others say the difference between the two is that an exaggeration could be seen as a matter of interpretation of facts. A lie, though, is a deception with the intention to mislead.
It is, indeed, a slippery slope when trying to distinguish between a benign exaggeration and an outright lie.
As a blogger and a storyteller, what are your feelings about exaggeration? Do you equate adding embellishments to your posts to lying? When, if ever, is stretching the truth permissible?