10 Feb

A lesson in hyperbole

We love to get in a flap in this country.

In the Philippines, or the Caribbean, a storm razes entire towns and uproots hundreds of trees, if not thousands.

We have one night of blowy conditions, a dozen trees (okay, maybe more) and some wheelie bins topple, and it’s the apocolypse.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what hyperbole was, this morning’s papers were an object lesson in that.

Last night’s winds were described as ‘The storm of the century’.
Bearing in mind we’re only twenty years into the century, that’s not saying much.

The papers could’ve described ‘gales’.
Instead, they described ‘hurricane-strength winds’.

They could’ve mentioned ‘heavy rain’.
Instead, they talked of ‘a deluge of rain’.

The conditions could’ve ’caused problems’.
Instead, they ‘brought chaos’.

The gales could’ve ‘swept the country’.
Instead, they ‘barelled across Britain’.

‘Parts of the transport network’ could’ve been affected.
Instead, ‘swathes of the transport network were shut down’.

Again, ‘heavy rain’ could’ve been mentioned.
Instead ‘torrential downpours’ were thrown into the mix.

‘Strong winds’ could’ve been spoken of.
Instead ‘gusts of 97mph’ were laid down in print.

This is how the British press, and we, as a country, talk about things.

I think it’s precisely because we don’t face the adverse conditions that show up in other parts of the world – the Hurricane Katrinas, the Haitian earthquakes, the tsunamis.

This morning’s papers are a great lesson in how to ham things up.
A lesson which could be taken and, for example, applied to a charity direct mail piece: a family isn’t ‘troubled’, they’re ‘struggling’. They’re not ‘having a tricky time making ends meet’, they’re ‘destitute’ or ‘penniless’.

If you want to know what hyperbole is, take a good old look at the newspaper front covers today.

Screenshot 2020-02-10 at 15.46.17

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