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Inspirational and Insightful Quotations #73 --- Exaggeration

Updated on September 19, 2015

Exaggeration Comes in Many Forms

The puritanical simplicity of “yea, yea and nay, nay” is no more with us. All about us is the blasphemy of exaggeration and pretense. Every field of human endeavor is more or less under the sway of the unreal, the untrue. We think that is more worthy to talk about extraordinary things in a most ordinary way, than about ordinary things in extraordinary way. We often speak about things we do not understand just to make an impression upon others, who perhaps know still less. Still more often we simply bluff at each other, anxiously waiting for the other fellow to back down. The watchword throughout the world seems to be: “Tell all more than you know, use as big words as you can find, philosophize with the least expense of grey matter, talk about the affairs of the world as if you were God’s right hand man, bluff and sparkle your way through life; never mind the light, if you only sparkle.” The simple is the true form, and the true man bewares of the pitfalls of exaggeration. He is satisfied if he gets hold of a little truth, and he is eager to present the same to others in the simplicity of childlike lucidity. He wants to see right, that he may think right and speak truthfully.

---George R. Gebauer, Duluth Herald, Duluth, Minn., May 21, 1917.

By cultivating the habit of exaggerating you will bring yourself to believe that your falsehood is simply a mistake in presenting the facts; or by repeating a falsehood often enough you may practically bring yourself to believe that it is the truth!

---Abram Duryee, Christian Intelligencer, New York, N.Y., June 9, 1920.

When under the heading of gossip, the small mistakes of an individual are bandied about and made a little worse as they go from tongue to tongue, the resulting harm can be very serious indeed. One sure way to increase your love of people is to regard it as an obligation in conscience to spread only what is good about others. You will then run no risk whatever of damaging the reputation of people by exaggerating their faults.

---James G. Keller, St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, Mo., March 20, 1955.

Why do so many folks in any community lose their heads and begin spreading a lot of wild reports. Is there a screw loose somewhere in most folks, which causes them, after hearing a report, to add one more detail, making it a little worse, before they pass it along to the next fellow? These are the questions which naturally arise after listening to thousand and one groundless rumors which start and spread like wild fire. There is no occasion for a panic, for development of a universal liars; contest in which most of us seek to outstrip all others in the lurid details we can add to what we tell our neighbors and friends. .The sensational character of exaggerated reports circulated almost transform a situation into a ludicrous farce. Liars who select a serious topic for exploitation should not be tolerated.

---Fred E. Tarman, Norman Transcript, Norman, Okla., Nov. 29, 1922.

The sin of calumny bears the malice of falsehood. Under the heading of calumny is included he bad habit of exaggerating the faults of another so inordinately that the grain of truth becomes a mountain of lies. One who is guilty of calumny is bound to repair the harm he has done to the character of the injured person, as far as lies in his power. Furthermore, if through unjust defamation a person has suffered material loss—for example, if in consequence of the loss of his good name a man has been discharged by his employer—the guilty party is obliged to make adequate pecuniary recompense.

---Francis J. Connell, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan. 13, 1936.

The scandalmonger who drags the people through slaughter houses to exhibit in loathsome forms the food of their tables by exaggerations and stories of things that always must be offensive at best are mistaken agitators, especially dangerous to us as a people. A man writes a book or publishes a series of magazine articles and makes frantic efforts to have a condition of frenzy created that will see his foul smelling pages to a people delirious with the fever of sensationalism. If what such a scandalmonger says were an hundredth part true the people would be dying by tens of thousands from the poisons of the meats they eat, or the doctors are all mistaken about the toxic effect of such putrid things.

---James Roscoe Day, Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Neb. June 11, 1906.

The worst liars in the world are very often entirely unaware of the fact that they lie at all, because the worst liars in the world are those who lie to themselves. There are lies and lies. Some people tell the so-called white lies. Others exaggerate. Still others spread malicious tales about their friends and neighbors. But the person who tells the most damaging lie is the chap who keeps deceiving himself day after day and year after year. Perhaps he never utters an untruthful word, but continually he shields himself from reality by assuring himself of something that is not true. He excuses himself for mediocrity. He deceives himself into believing that his little indulgences will never lead to anything serious. He has soft cushions spread everywhere upon which he alights after every well-merited failure. Nobody can make him face the truth about himself or about the world. The man is the most dangerous of all liars—he lies to himself. People lie at different levels of personality. The deeper the level at which they lie, the more dangerous the lie. To deceive one’s self is to lie at life’s deepest level.

---Earl L. Douglass, The Daily Times, Beaver, Pa., April 6, 1938.

Exaggeration of the instinct of fear and apprehension not only makes people ill, but is illness itself. The thousand and one needless worries over the future are simply providence for the morrow gone mad.

---George F. Butler, The Caledonian Record, St. Johnsbury, Vt., Aug. 30, 1920.

Conceit is entertaining an exaggerated opinion of one’s own ability.

---Ernest Orlando Sellers, The Citizen, Berea, Ky., Nov. 23, 1916.

Somehow, people always like to exaggerate the mistakes of others.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Atchison Daily Globe, Atchison, Kan., May 20, 1909.

Any man who will tell you his wrongs will exaggerate them.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 8, 1911.

Whether people view with alarm or point with pride, they delight in exaggeration.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Nov. 6, 1911.

Some men’s way of flattering themselves is to exaggerate the cleverness of those who cheat them.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Atchison Daily Globe, Atchison, Kan., Sept. 30, 1909.

It is the nature of fear to exaggerate danger and minimize hope.

---Roy L. Smith, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y., Jan. 21, 1933.

The proud man usually exaggerates the reason for his pride.

---Roy L. Smith, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y., March 20, 1928.

The desire to appear humble is oftentimes an exaggerated pride.

---Roy L. Smith, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 22, 1930.

Did you ever notice that when people are careless with the truth they always exaggerate, never minimize?

---John Merrill Chilcote, St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, Mo., May 28, 1944.

We have always noticed that the man who exaggerates his own troubles belittles the troubles of others.

---Howard N. Hildreth Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Sept. 4, 1921.

The trouble about persons in a nervous condition is their nervous implacability, rendering them more or less averse to taking care of themselves and looking out for their best physical interests. Accustomed to exaggerating everything about themselves, they incline to overrate the expense or inconvenience of a shift in their strain of routine. The wisdom of living is learning to relax, in due course, and to consider the unimportance of being too earnest.

---Burrows Matthews, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y., April 14, 1935.

The truth is we older people didn’t have much fun in the past. We just exaggerate past pleasures as we do present troubles.

---Claude Callan, Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, Wis., Jan. 4, 1929.

Most every lie started as exaggeration.

---Cambridge City Tribune, Cambridge City, Ind., June 13, 1929.

Many lies are merely exaggerations, the result of efforts to dress up the naked truth.

---Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, Oct. 30, 1929.

Exaggeration in speech is likely to belittle the speaker.

---Meriden Record, Meriden, Conn., May 23, 1929.

All of us exaggerate a little, in an effort to be interesting.

---Carl J.G. Brown, Atchison Daily Globe, Atchison, Kan., Jan. 25, 1941.

The fellow with the exaggerated ego never lets swell enough alone.

---Jack Warwick, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., March 23, 1936.

Exaggerating—hanging baubles on the truth.

---Jack Warwick, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Dec. 11, 1935.

Whether in speaking or in writing, make it a point to use superlative seldom. Their habitual and excessive use is symptomatic of a real defect in reasoning power, and may even by symptomatic of weakness in nerve control.

"The one who habitually defaces reality by extremes of expression," pointedly observes a veteran specialist in nervous disorders, "if not already nervous, is traveling nervousward."

And, elaborating, he goes on:

"If the neurotic would men the error of his mental ways he would early learn that extravagance of speech stands for distortion of thought; that clear, logical thinking is hurt by inordinate expression, and he would rapidly eliminate his superlatives and many of his comparatives."

Moreover, without appreciating it, the victim of the superlative habit may work nervous damage in other people.

"To him everything is 'wonderful,' 'prodigious,' 'superb,' 'gorgeous,' 'heavenly,' 'amazing,' 'indescribable,' 'overwhelming.' Extravagance and exaggeration permeate his most common observations."

Which, necessarily, gets very much on other people's nerves.

Now it may happen that you who read these lines are yourself unconsciously addicted to overindulgence in the use of words that dazzle and unduly emphasize.

If so, break yourself of the habit without delay. Do not banish superlatives entirely from your vocabulary. But learn to use them only when they rightfully should be used.

This will mean effort, patient study of yourself and your language tendencies.

As verbal extravagance lessens, poise will more and more surely come, the poise of that self-mastery and self-control to which all should aspire.

---H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., April 23, 1919.

One of the physical laws is that reaction is equal to action. It follows, then, that if an action be exaggerated the reaction will be exaggerated.

In the greater number of instances an action is exaggerated not with any purpose of producing an exaggerated reaction but with the purpose of placing sufficient emphasis on the normal action that the normal reaction will be produced.

Consequently the very people who exaggerate an action are the ones who are taken by surprise when the reaction turns out to be exaggerated. …

It is easy to see today that as a consequence of the exaggerations of some, the reaction against them has been far greater than the normal reaction of an exciting controversy. …

There is a theory which we do not believe will stand under experience that a person uses profanity because he is uncertain as to his command of English and because he fears that he cannot express himself adequately if he uses good English.

Using an analogous theory, he who resorts to exaggerations in arguments and controversies does so because he is uncertain as to the logic of his own arguments, and because he is afraid that his arguments if taken at the face value of their logic will not be of sufficient strength to win the controversy. …

Going back to the principle of being hoisted by one’s own petard, of being caught in one’s own trap, of being too smart, the people who exaggerate an action hoping to product a normal reaction and nothing more, always are overtaken and damaged by the severity of the reaction. …

It takes a man of exceptional ability to produce the ability to live down a reputation for exaggeration and for insincere passion. While people are trying to decide how much less than apparent strength to give his argument they usually decide to play safe and to give it far less.

---Henry Arnold “H.A.” Stallings, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., April 5, 1938.

It is said that if you can get the people to laughing at a man they will vote against him; that nothing is more effective politically than ridicule.

There is a form of exaggeration that brings ridicule and defeat to him making the exaggeration rather than to the one against whom it was directed.

Such exaggeration is a ridicule boomerang, accurately bringing the ridicule back to him who launched the exaggeration. …

Men seeking to use ridicule as a political weapon may yet be surprised at the effectiveness of ridicule.

---Jack Williams, Sr., Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., Oct. 11, 1935.

“Exaggeration is a deportment of lying.” ---Baltasar Gracian, 1647

Suppose one day we should read this political poster:

“Vote for John Brown. Actually he isn’t the only man who could fill the office. But he needs the job and will do the best he can to keep his campaign promises and to show his appreciation to his supporters. It’s no secret that he has been in a few scrapes, but he is about as good a prospect for the position as you could reasonably expect under the circumstances.”

But no—what do we read!—that he is the indispensable man, the only candidate who could efficiently the position; that we will lower taxes, improve service, rid the city hall of all its inefficiency; that he is fearless, upright, independent, and is running for office only because of the insistence of his thousands of friends, etc., etc.

And imagine how impressed we would be if we were to hear this radio blurb about some brand of soap: “It will keep you clean if you use it often enough and scrub hard enough. It won’t change your personality or your social prospects. It is an honest product—about as good as we can make for the money. And if it’s washing you want you probably can’t buy a better brand.”

But no! We must bear about beauty and personality and social triumph!

And how impressed would we be if we should see this estimate of a “coming attraction”: “It’s a fairly good show—not the greatest of all time. It isn’t super-sensational; it isn’t stupendous, colossal or terribly terrific—but we think it will entertain you for an hour or two and give you something to think about.”

But no!—well, you know the rest.
“There is no one who does not exaggerate,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There may be rare exceptions to this rule, but certainly it is an unusual individual who doesn’t at some time exceed the facts and overwork words.

In fact, the practice of exaggerating has become so prevalent that we find ourselves making mental allowance for a certain percentage of padding in almost everything we see or hear.

And sometimes exaggeration becomes so extreme that the exaggerators are hard pressed to keep up the pace. When once they have said that something is the greatest, the best, the most amazing—when they have said all this and much more over and over again, there isn’t must more they can say to impress people, because overworked words soon lose their punching power.

In social situations, the language of young people is often a matter of amazement—but it need not always be taken too seriously. Things are divine or devastating, super or silly, gorgeous or ghastly! In brief outbursts they go from the zenith to the nadir in extravagant utterance.

Small children, too, are often given to excursions of exaggeration. Things to them are the biggest and the best, or the littlest and the worst. A few is a million; a strange man is an ogre, a box is a boat, and one small friend is a whole army of faithful followers. This is exaggeration at its best. And no one would want to deprive them of their world of make-believe.

Nor would anyone want to dull the color of good fiction, or spoil a delightfully imaginative story.

But when the time comes for facts, we’d better present them as they are.

Men make many important decisions on the representations of other man. And if they find someone who doesn’t overstate the facts, who observes and reports accurately, they begin to gain confidence in him. They begin to know that there is real substance behind what he says.

But if they find someone who can’t refrain from mixing fiction and facts, then they don’t know when to believe him and when not to believe him.

If you want to be believed, you had better be convincingly truthful as a matter of habit, without overcoloring your conversation.

If you overstake the facts, if you overwork words, you will find that people, in their own minds, will whittle down everything you say to what they think should be about its actual size.

The art of accurate statement is a great art. The art of understatement is a great art.

You can create a powerful impression by the persistent use of simple truth. It may take a while to convince people that you are not given to exaggeration—but once they are convinced, your influence will extend far beyond the influences of those who use the super-super technique all the time, and whose language everyone knows is full of froth.

---Richard L. Evans, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 31, 1948.

Any man who will tell you his wrongs will exaggerate them.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 8, 1911.

Whether people view with alarm or point with pride, they delight in exaggeration.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Nov. 6, 1911.

Exaggeration is falsehood in its Sunday clothes.

---Earl Riney, Church Management, Cleveland, Ohio, February 1944.

When some people say they're only human, they're exaggerating.

---Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Sept. 22, 1952.


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