Submitted by adam on March 29, 2006

Over exaggeration

Is it correct to say “over exaggerate”? or is exaggeration by nature already over emphasizing? Surely you either exaggerate or you don’t? It just drives me mad when people say this all the time!

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If you want to modify it with a degree, use a word such as "huge" or "enormous" or "small." Using the word "over" doesn't specify a degree. An exaggeration is always excessive. Therefore, it is redundant.

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I would posit that there are indeed degrees of exaggeration, but all of these degrees are to excess - if we may once again equate the word with "overstate" for illustrative purposes, we can see this more clearly. For instance, a slight exaggeration is slightly in excess of the truth; that is, to exaggerate slightly is to overstate slightly, which is to state as slightly over [whatever actual value]. Or, in the other case, to exaggerate greatly is to overstate greatly, which is to state as greatly over [whatever actual value]. The issue arises, however, with "over-" and "under-" as prefixes, since they indicate a certain excess, "too much" or "too little", respectively. We have, however, "to exaggerate" as "to overstate", which is "to state as too much", and "to overexaggerate" as "to overoverstate" which would thus become "to state as too much too much" - the question arises, is it possible "to state as too much enough" or "to state as too much too little"? Surely, if we are overstating at all, we are already in excess - too little of this is no longer excess at all, enough is absurd, and too much is redundant.

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I don't know why some people get so up about this! As far as I am concerned, if people use it, then it's a word, and everyone, surely, knows what is meant. If it just means exaggerate, So What? Let people talk how they like. In everyday colloquial speech, it doesn't matter does it? Maybe teachers should make sure pupils don't put it in Standard English writing, but if it's in the dictionary...

Who says language has to be mathematical and logical anyway?

And, wow, these comments have been going on for 6 years??!

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Those who have mentioned under exaggerating should know that the antonym for exaggeration is to minimize. I corrected my roommate on his over exaggeration use tonight and as we argue I like to have sources to back up my argument. Speaking to all of the quotes above, many of them seem to have to do not with the degree of exaggeration, but the use in terms of quantity... I.e Obama doesn't over exaggerate one thing or another, but uses exaggeration frequently to make poor people his puppets. However the quote dealing with body movements especially makes me think that if there is no word tha means completely over-doing something versus mildly over-doing it, then websters should go to work.

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Those who have mentioned under exaggerating should know that the antonym for exaggeration is to minimize. I corrected my roommate on his over exaggeration use tonight and as we argue I like to have sources to back up my argument. Speaking to all of the quotes above, many of them seem to have to do not with the degree of exaggeration, but the use in terms of quantity... I.e Obama doesn't over exaggerate one thing or another, but uses exaggeration frequently to make poor people his puppets. However the quote dealing with body movements especially makes me think that if there is no word tha means completely over-doing something versus mildly over-doing it, then websters should go to work.

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It seems to me that those opposed to over-exaggeration are all commiting the same logical fallacy. While not always stated exactly this way, I suspect all the arguments against are various versions of this: "There are no degrees of exaggeration. Either you are exaggerating or you are not". Such a statement is merely an assertion without any justification.

Let's break this down:

A = "There are no degrees of exaggeration"
B = "Either you are exaggerating or you are not"

I believe the underlying reasoning goes something like this:

A is true. The reason A is true is because, clearly, B is true. Or, to put another way, B implies A.

Here's the problem with this reasoning. B doesn't imply A. The following statement is just as valid:

"There are many degrees of exaggeration. Either you are exaggerating or you are not"

The statement "Either you are exaggerating or you are not" is obviously true; In fact, it is a tautology. As such, it proves nothing about whether exaggeration exists in degrees or only in superlative absolutes.

As an example, let's take being tall. Some people are taller than others. Some are very tall. Some are a little taller than average. There are infinite gradations of tallness. What if I said "there's no such thing as being very tall. Either you are tall or you are not"? Clearly that would be a foolish assertion. I could be very tall, a little tall, too tall. I could be overly tall. I could be, er, under-tall (say, 6 foot 2, but still not tall enough for the NBA), etc. That being said, the statement "EIther you are tall or you are not" is completely correct. It just happens to have no relevance.

Let's take another example: "You can't be a little pregnant. Either you are pregnant or you're not." For the sake of argument, let's say that both statements are correct and that there are no degrees of pregnancy. The truth is that the second statement, "either you are pregnant or you're not" is still irrelevant and has absolutely nothing to do with whether there are degrees of pregnancy. If it were possible to be "a little pregnant", then being a little pregnant would still be being pregnant, and the second statement would still be true.

I can be a little tired, a little hungry, a little late, and yes, that means I'd be tired, hungry and/or late.

I can exaggerate a little, a lot, too much, or not enough. Those that disagree are certainly free to do so, but simply stating it doesn't make it so. Nor does stating it more emphatically. It's just begging the question.

Also, comparing exaggeration to other words whose nature is superlative proves nothing. Clearly such words exist. Listing them doesn't prove or disprove anything.

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@Flory ... By that inwit, the word exaggerate shouldn't exist at all! So let's ban the word "exaggerate" ... after all, if isn't ever "appropriate" to exaggerate, then one shouldn't need the word. But whether is it is "appropriate" or not not, folks do exaggerate and their exaggerations can be small or big

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I'm wondering when exaggerating is ever 'appropriate.' If anyone can think of a situation when it is, then using the phrase "over exaggerating" shouldn't be a problem.

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I think everyone is overexaggerating..

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@Anwulf
I agree that the examples you quote are valid and I certainly would have no problem using "much", "more", or "not too" with exaggerated, but I would still draw the line at using either over or under as a prefix for exaggerate.
Of course the fact that I am a pedantic old fart makes it easy for me to eschew the use of such prefices.

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@R Smith ... Then all the uses below are wrong? According to you, one cannot exaggerate too much since there are no degrees of exaggeration.

The Three Mile Island "disaster", for example, was a much-exaggerated description of a serious accident. — "Future Studies in the Academy", Academic Questions, Winter, 1995, Vol 9, Issue 1, p12

Researchers had long known that rat pups that don't receive as much licking and grooming-perhaps a rat mother's brand of affection-grow up to have more-exaggerated stress behavior than better-cared-for pups do. — "Nuture Takes the Spotlight", Science News, Jun, 2006, Vol. 169, Issue 25.

Let the bike come up further and further-exaggerate the motions of soaking up a bump. — "Skills: How to Catch Air", Nov, 2001, Vol 42, Issue 11, p22

For the perfect berry pout and not-tooexaggerated brow, … — "The New Easy Beauty", Oct, 1998, Vol. 191, Issue 6, p162

As our dinners settled comfortably, tales of dressing experiences were exchanged, each couple good-naturedly attempting to out-exaggerate the others. — "Splendors of the Orient-Express", USA Today Magazine, Jul, 1993, Vol 122, p 35.

Ron says his problem with Obama is the integrity thing. "He exaggerates too much," Ron says. "He's not honest." — "Full Metal McCain", Rolling Stone, Jun 26, 2008, p43

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Neither under-exaggerate or over-exaggerate are valid. Exaggerate basically means to make an overstatement. Obviously you cannot under-overstate something or over-overstate something. This is nonsense. The problem stems from the ignorance of the true definition of the word and hearing bad English repeated by peers and/or members of the media.

There are no degrees of exaggeration required. The light switch is either on or off. It is not over or under-switched on.

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OMG!

We are doomed!

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I've never used it but it seems so:

1983, International Symposium on Theory and Practice in Transport:
Academics tend to be very sceptical of oil forecasts made by the major oil companies as they underexaggerate the probable amounts of oil in the world.

2003, Gregory D Lee, Global Drug Enforcement:
Without the services of a qualified polygrapher, the defendant will almost always underexaggerate or lie about his or others' involvement in the conspiracy.

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So one can then underexaggerate?

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Quoting poor logic does not help your case. Neither of you have answered the simple question: Are there degrees of exaggeration? If the answer is yes, then one can overexaggerate. It is as simple as that.

Here is a quote from a writ discussing Shakespeare that I just read a while ago: ... is just a more exaggerated version of the same idea ...

Now, I ask you ... could not "more exaggerated" also be written as "overexaggerated"? Would they not convey the same meaning? Or do you believe that "more exaggerated" is also wrong? You can't have it both ways, they're either both right or they're both wrong.

So ... I have shown you that historically, there has never ... NEVER ... been just one degree of exaggeration. That is what your whole premise relies on ... that there are not degrees of exaggeration. That notion flies in the face of reality and history.

The supposed redundancy is only in your mind because of the above false notion that there are not degrees of exaggeration. This belongs in the same dustbin with other false pedantic notions like you can't split the infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition. The word exists, it is often used, and it is clearly understood ... And it isn't going away. Nor should it.

BTW ... Apparently some folks do "advance forward" LOL ... http://www.ics.edu.hk/index.php/giving-to-ics/a... and http://www.advanceforward.co.uk/ .

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Would you use phrases like "reverse backward", or "advance forward"?
I would think not.
Over exaggerate is in the same category. There is an inherent redundancy.

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@Anwulf
The words in the post are not mine, I was merely providing an excerpt from the entry at http://www.grammarist.com/usage/overexaggerate
However I do agree with what that excerpt states.
There is nothing mythical about it.
As to shut-off minds: take a look in the mirror.

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@Hairy Scot ... Can you "slightly" exaggerate? Can you "greatly" exaggerate? If you can "greatly" exaggerate, then you can "excessively" exaggerate. If you can "excessively" exaggerate, then you have met the definition of "overexaggerate" (or, if you like it better, over-exaggerate". There are degrees of exaggeration ... indeed, there always has been.

From the OED: The word originally meant ‘pile up, accumulate,’ later ‘intensify praise or blame,’‘dwell on a virtue or fault,’ giving rise to current senses.

There is not and never has been only one degree of exaggeration. That's only a myth in the shut-off minds of pendants. For the rest of us in the real world, there are degrees of exaggeration which means that one can eathly overexaggerate.

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From http://www.grammarist.com/usage/overexaggerate

Exaggerate means to represent as greater than is actually the case—in other words, to overstate. Because exaggerate already denotes excessiveness, the prefix over- adds nothing, and overexaggerate (or over-exaggerate, as it’s usually written) is redundant. The prefix could always be removed with no loss of meaning. This also applies to derivative words like overexaggerated and overexaggeration.

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Yes, the facts remain that there are degrees of exaggeration whether you like them or not.

(OED) Prefix over- 1 excessively; to an unwanted degree

Are you saying that it is not possible to exaggerate excessively?

If it is possible to exaggerate excessively, then one can overexaggerate.

One can be friendly and one can be over-friendly.
One can magnify and one can over-magnifiy.
One can exaggerate and one can over-exaggerate.

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@JohnnyM
Pedantic: yes, condescending: perhaps, offensive: no.
I have not, as you have done, targeted a particular poster, because that would perhaps be offensive.
False analogies or not, the facts remain.

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PerfectPedant: Pedantic and offensive, a wonderful combination. I am not American, but that reference to "North American" dictionaries is spectacularly condescending. And in response to other posters, the fact that many often use "overexaggerate" when they simply mean "exaggerate" is irrelevant. Of course there are degrees of exaggeration. In situations where a degree of exaggeration is intended or desirable, then it stands to reason that to go further would be to "overexaggerate". Pregancy or uniqueness are false analogies used to artificially bolster the argument.

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I think "over exagerate" is an exageration in itself.

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(tee hee!!)

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@Jesse the blob of Bromine

Irregardless to the fact, you are overexaggerating!

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A lot of drivel being spouted here.
Despite what Merriam-Webster or any other North American dictionary may say, there are of course no degrees of exaggeration just as there are no degrees of uniqueness, and indeed no degrees of pregnancy.

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over-
prefix
Definition of OVER-
1: so as to exceed or surpass <overachieve>
2: excessive <overstimulation>
3: to an excessive degree <overthin>

...

# over·ex·ag·ger·ate
# over·ex·ag·ger·a·tion

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/over-

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ex. BLAH BLAH BLAH

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You can overexaggerate, underexaggerate, overegg, underegg, underdog, overdog, in my books. They ALL give off good enough meaning to most folk.

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im pretty sure that everyone has used slang at some point in time. it might bother you the way someone says something like "overexaggerate" but you can clearly understand that they are trying to say that someone has exaggerated more than they think is necessary. the same goes for underexaggerate

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@Jesse the blob of Bromine

I feel your response is beyond exaggerating with all the capital letters and exclamation marks, as well as your desire to harm someone physically. The word "exaggerating" isn't enough to express how I feel about your response, but I cannot think of a better word at the moment. I need something stronger than "exaggerating". I'm not sure if there is such a word in English. Any suggestion?

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THIS IS FLIPPIN RIDICULOUS! Its not a word. It pisses me off so bad when people say that. You can overstate something, you can exaggerate it, but you cannot overexaggerate it, because OVEREXAGGERATE IS NOT A WORD. AS I TYPE THIS I HAVE RED LINES TELLING ME THAT OVEREXAGGERATE IS WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to punch some people in the face.

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porsche: It doesn't matter if the guy tore one of his arms off and threw it across the street to indicate how big the fish was, it's still simply exaggeration, not over-exaggeration. You can't draw a line; who decides where the line goes? Who says what's "expected" exaggeration in your example? Is four feet over-exaggerating? Six-and-a-half? Twelve-and-a-half? Or does the line start at twenty? And for who, you, or the other guy? It's too subjective to use in that way.

There CAN be expected exaggeration, It's already been said, but I guess you can over-exaggerate if exaggeration is already a stated target, and you EXCEED what's expected.

"Exaggerate the size of the fish you caught when you caught when you tell people about it."

"What, like...twenty feet?"

"You're a moron."

As for people saying you can under-exaggerate...if you're "under-exaggerating," you're still just exaggerating. What you're exaggerating is the diminishing qualities of a thing, that's all.

"You're losing a lot of blood from your armhole...".

"A drop or two, yeah." --> exaggerating how LITTLE he's losing.
"A bathtub or two, yeah." --> ...how MUCH...

Again, I guess under-exaggeration would fit if exaggeration is the goal, and you fall short. But "understating" or simply "sucking at exaggerating" would probably fit better.

People using "over-exaggerate" when they MEAN "exaggerate" does grate on my nerves. If people start using under-exaggerate with any frequency, I swear I'll shoot myself in the face twelve times.

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I believe that the term exaggeration is mostly used in the sense that whatever the topic is, is being blown out of proportion unnecessary, and the usage of over- is typically to describe something as being more than necessary, therefore I believe that if exaggeration is more than required, how can you get more than that? I don't think exaggeration is a set value, for example, if "I jumped 1 meter." Was the truth, I think that anything more than one meter is an exaggeration, that doesn't mean that "I jumped 4902368 meters." Would be an overexaggeration, it would still be only an exaggeration.

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Jjaay--I don't see where exaggeration is analogous to infinity. Exaggerations are all over the field, from slight (the fish was ten cm.) to huge (the fish was a whale). Although there is a branch of mathematics that deals with "sizes" if infinity (aleph numbers), it is true that infinity is not comparable with any finite number.

I think that phrases like "over-exaggerate" seem redundant and make for poor writing style, but they are in the common speech, to me a good clue that they serve a purpose.

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Thanks for the praise: if one is going to insult (my intention), I think it can be more effective to try to be clever than to just call someone names.

I don't think he would have responded to either of us. My reaction is that he was bewildered and felt a need to react, but didn't know how. That of course is just a guess--I wouldn't want to even try to understand such a person.

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Over exaggerating and Under exaggerating, they dont exist, its all still exaggerating. the over and under are simply just exaggerated terms of the word exaggerate.
its like saying infinity plus 1. infinity does NOT have a limit, when you add the 1, you just added a limit to it. but it doesnt work like that, thats why it doesnt make sense.

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Hey, Frank!
How are you today?
That was a very clever post.
You have now saved Blackvaginafinda the job of responding to my post.
He (or she) doesn't need to think about dropping out of class, if he/she is in one - you just baby sat them through the matter!
Well done!
Think about it!

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The use of "fags" (don't be facetious--of course he means homosexuals--in fact he means effeminate homosexuals) and similar labels to describe smart people is a defense mechanism used by dumb male adolescents to maintain their self-esteem in the face of not having any notion of what is going on in class. I think this is okay. At least it is better than their dropping out so that there is no one to baby-sit them

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Well, blackvaginafinda (now there's a grand name. No, don't ask),
"u guys are fags" is what you wrote.
Why are they cigarettes??
Or are you suggesting that they are homosexuals? Do you know them? How can you judge them if you don't know them?
You seem to have an unhealthy interest in either cigarettes or homosexuals. Perhaps you should find a website that markets such people, though don'r wait too late or a percentage of those you seek will have become quite ill as a result of the cigarettes they smoke. I can say this because the government tells me so.
Now the, to get back to your name.................

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PS if we can talk of a big exaggeration as opposed to a small exaggeration why can't we qualify the word in other ways?

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For a political party to exaggerate the benefits of their policies would be normal. But if they exaggerated said benefits beyond what even the most gullible of the populace on the loose could take seriously, that would be an over-exaggeration.

So there you are:

An exaggeration is a lie; but an over-exaggeration is an implausible lie.

Plausible?

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I'd say underexaggeration was something along the lines of:
"His girlfriend looks about twelve!" when she looks more like eighteen, or:
"That painting isn't worth anything" when you could sell it for a few dollars.

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forgive the few typos above

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Adam, if you were referring to me, I don't know how you concluded that I got my definnition from The Urban Dictionary. It's been a few years, but I think I got it word for word (note the quotation marks) from Webster's, not sure what edition. It certainly wasn't from The Urban Dictionary. Oh, and to Ty Guy, et al., I don't think understate is a good substitute for underexaggereate. I would think that underexaggeration would be exaggeration that was less than the expected amount, but still exaggeration, not understatement at all. Say, someone says, "I caught a fish that was THIS big", holding his hands fourteen or fifteen inches apart when the actual fish was only twelve inches long. That would be underexaggeration. Holding his hands three feet apart would be the expected exaggeration, and just called exaggeration. Getting a friend to stand on the other side of the room to hold out one hand while he places the other hand twenty feet away to indicate the fishes length would be overexaggeration.

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I agree with you that "hyperbole" is better than "over-exaggeration," (which, as many pointed out, seems redundant and in bad taste). Also, to me as to you, "hyperbole" implies (since it is seen as a figure of speech) to be an honest exaggeration--no one is fooled by a statement so extreme as to be impossible.

There does, however, seem to be room for "over-exaggeration" as a way to describe an expression that is dishonest--seriously dishonest. The linguistic culture has invented the expression, and it rarely does so if there is no need. I think, though, than in that situation I would prefer "grossly exaggerated."

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Sam, those were pretty failful examples. And, yes, I realize 'failful' is not a word. You used:

"The sweltering heat of the summer had to be at least a 110 degrees.
"The sweltering heat of the summer had to be a billion degrees or more!"

Both of these are exaggerations. Not over or under.

Wiktionary even says: "over- +? exaggerate, perhaps from confusion between exaggerate (already implying excess) and terms like overstate."

So, no, it's not a word in and of itself. But any prefix like this can, in theory, be applied to a verb, and how common its usage is, unfortunately, does make a word, however nonsensical. Also, the person who posted the supposed definition for said word used the urban dictionary definition, which is rather telling.

Hannah said: "When people say something is ‘over exaggerated’ they mean it’s a hyperbole, and that it is obvious that someone stretched the truth.(At least that is what I think…)"

The problem with this reasoning is that 'exaggerated' works just as well. To stretch the truth is to exaggerate it. To overstate it.

The say that it would make sense for one to use 'over' or 'under' is to say that 'exaggerate' implies a neutral action in this manner, which it does not. The opposite of exaggerate is probably 'understate'. It's not equitable with more neutral verbs like 'do', where you can 'overdo' things.

At the very least, people who use the word have probably not thought it through. And probably should be sent to Auschwitz.

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AO,
If there are apples, big apples, really big apples, and really really big apples, wouldn't the scale change, whereas apples would become known as small apples, big apples would become known as normal apples, really big apples would become known as big apples, and really really big apples would be an exaggeration? lol

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When people say something is 'over exaggerated' they mean it's a hyperbole, and that it is obvious that someone stretched the truth.(At least that is what I think...)

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First, there is no word "underexaggerate." What you're thinking of is "understate." To say you have a mere flesh wound when someone has fatally stabbed you is to make an understatment (not an underexaggeration). You also can't underenlarge things or underincrease your paycheck.

If you can have an apple, a big apple, and a really big apple, does not mean that you can underexaggerate, exaggerate, and overexaggerate. "Exaggerate" is fundamentally over-the-top, while apples are not. "Exaggerate" is not a neutral word in this way. It describes the act of over-enlarging in a certain sense. You cannot overly over-enlarge.
"There were a thousand people in the elevator" is an exaggeration. "There were a million-bazillion people in the elevatir" is also an exaggeration, not an over-exaggeration. There do not need to be degrees of exaggeration because the word in itself includes doing an action "to a degree that is already higher than what is normal or usual."

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col Berg:
By that logic, your own response is equally trustworthy, as you've spelled "Richie" wrong. Furthermore, you've ended a question with a period, which makes it somewhat less than a question, and not at all a sentence.
None of this matters, though, because I don't agree with either of you. That's a guess, anyway, because I'm way too lazy to figure out what Richie is even trying to say behind all of that atrocious grammar.

For the record, I think we can safely consider "atrocious grammar" an under exaggeration in this instance.

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Rickie Vallance's posting is so trustworthy he can't even spell exaggerate, so how can you take his answer as having any value.

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Porsche...look up pony in cockney rhyming slang and I think you are actually over exaggerating, as you could not possibly be hungry enough to eat one of those ;)

I just chanced on this thread, and I think "overmisconstrued" is an excellent word, or in terms of Pony.. an excrement word.

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Underexageration: I'm so hungry I could eat a pony!

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God! All you people are over-exagerating, you yanks just dont get English lol. Always hacking our language and claiming it for yourself. We stole our words from the rest of the world, and most English is a variant of French, since that literacy, at least anglo came about when the English reading, writing, and speech became common. And not just for the rich. exagerate as is to over-ephasise. lol and over-e xagerate as is to exagerate over emphasis.

For example, when exageration occurs in any context, then it is blowing the ephasis out of proportion, ie, im so hungry, i could eat a horse.

For example, when over-exageraton occurs the point has been lost and the subject has been blown out of proportion. ie, im so hungry, i could eat a horse, then a whale!

Exagerate does have boundaries. you can only exagerate so far, as to blow the whole thing out of proportion and then go on a tangent.

When you exagerate you are twisting the truth. you are hungry but could not possibly eat a horse. Therefore exagerated how hungry you are. any further from the point, is off the point, and the point has been lost, a boast becomes a lie. many people over-exagerate to tell a better story, such as the media, or chinese whispers.

To under=exagerate is to stay to the point, but make it seem further away, instead of distancing. ie, she has taken what I have said out of context and out of proportion, no i didnt, i was merely stating a fact.

Well im ten stone, no you are not you are fifteen, no you are not you are five!

In general conversation I have had sex with over fifty women, dont lie its no more than 25, well actually it was ten.

As men always over-exagerate, and women always under-exagerate how many people they have slept with.

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exaggeration is just a lie.

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i think that everyone here is way to technical and that i agree with anonymous every exaggeration is lying but i have my own view on over-exaggeration when people over-exaggerate they just take it way to far and like brandon said its just blatent lying so thats my view on this subject

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And Brandon, if you want to get technical, ALL exaggeration is lying.

PS, forgive the misspelling above, that's two g's in "overexaggerating" (I know how picky some are around here).

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"Bill always says his 'big catch' was 5 feet long when it was really only three, but 10 feet for a striped bass? Now THAT's overexagerating!"

(as already stated above, from the dictionary definition: "...to go beyond anticipated exaggeration")

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I agree that overexaggerate may be used when referring to physical motions, like in the example slemmet cited. As far as exaggerating in a story, I don't think it's acceptable. Lets say a person longjumps 9 feet, but when telling the story they say "Yeah I jumped 10 feet yesterday." Thats an exaggeration. If that same person said "I jumped 15 feet", thats not overexaggerating, thats just lying. So the prefix "over" in that context doesn't really apply.

Excluding physical gestures, an exaggeration is a stretch of the truth for the purpose of coloring a story, an "overexaggeration" is just a blatent lie.

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Proof by Contradiction:

"You can make the jump, it's only five feet."

"I think you're under-exaggerating. It's more like 30 feet"

It remains to be proven that it is necessary to specify under or over.

----

"Sir, the report has just come in. Top commando Boolean just phoned General Foo and told him the enemies could be counted in the hundreds. Foo states that the account is an exaggeration."

"An exaggeration? So there are less than a hundred or is the number actually in the thousands?

- Ambiguity must be resolved in this specific instance. Because there exists at least one scenario in which clarification is needed, the prefix over and under are deemed correct by appealing to proof by contradiction []

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Exaggeration:

The sweltering heat of the summer had to be at least a 110 degrees.

(suppose it was not anywhere near 110 degrees)

Over-exaggeration:

The sweltering heat of the summer had to be a billion degrees or more!

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Agreed. If this apple can be big, it can also be really big. Furthermore, it can be really really really big. Therefore, if I can exaggerate, I can also overexaggerate. I can also supercrazyridiculousoverexaggerate.

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I think you certainly can over or under exaggerate if "exaggerate" is a target, specific or implied. I may be wrong, but I believe you can "over" or "under" anything that is used as a target, threshold, or boundary.
If "overexaggerate" is used where "exaggerate" would be appropriate, then that usage would be incorrect.

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you can't over or under exaggerate. An under exaggeration would be the true value making it not an exaggeration at all and an over exaggeration is impossible because you can't take something with no value too far. If you have nothing, would you say you have to much of nothing. The numbers of an exaggeration have no value so you can never take it to far.

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of course you can underexaggerate--I imagine it happening the morning after a less-then-enthralling sexual experience while a young lady is regaling her best friend with the tale of her unimpressive companion! ;->

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so can you underexaggerate?

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Hahahahaha, jae's comment is hella funny.

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Um, Doc, it was a joke. You're taking it too literally.

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porsche, in inebriation is to simply "make drunk", then could you not inebriate someone so that the consequences are so great they are fatal? Why not? why would can you add over- to exaggerate but not inebriate?

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I think you've overmisconstrued my point, porsche.

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Yet there's certainly a state of underinebriation. Alas, I'm in it now.

I'm not sure about underfibbing or underembezzling (I'd like to know how much I'm allowed to underembezzle before it rises to the state of appropriate embezzlement).

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Oh, come one now. Bismarck. Certainly many may misuse overexaggerate, but one can construct a valid and correct (if somewhat stilted) sentence for every "over.." word you have listed... except for overinebriate, of course. No amount of inebriation could be considered excessive, so I would have to say there is no such thing as overinebriation.

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The use of "over" as a verbal prefix suggests that there is a manifest level of degree that is expected or considered proper: overeat, overstay, overrate, overdose, etc. The use of such a prefix with activities that imply an inherent state of excess or impropriety, e.g., overfib, overembezzle, overinebriate, overslander, etc. is pointless because there is no level of appropriateness to be exceeded.

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I would suggest that, technically, "over" is not used as an adverb in this case because overexaggerate is actually one word, not two.
PS - overexagerrate is in the dictionary, meaning, not suprisingly, "...to go beyond anticipated exaggeration"

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Some interesting rationales have been put forth to justify the possible use of this expression; my first thought though, is that whenever I've actually heard those words combined this way, it's been done in complete ignorance. This is actually something that quite irks me whenever I hear it.

Thinking over whether the words _could_ ever be combined thusly and be grammatically correct, I come to another conclusion - while "over" can be an adverb, I believe it is used incorrectly in this case. (The examples I find in my dictionary are too numerous to cite, but none match this case.)

I believe the correct way to word the [unlikely but possible?] meanings suggested by some would be "_overly_ exaggerate".

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I think overexaggeration is clearly a useful concept. Just because exaggerate doesn't imply a degree is no reason not to supply one! And while I happen to hate the phrase "very unique", Isabella, I am in no way against modification by degree of absolute terms. Every visitor to this site should read the American Heritage Dictionary's comments on absolute terms, perhaps beginning with "unique":

http://www.bartleby.com/61/48/U0084800.html

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Exaggerate implies no degree, so it seems appropriate to indicate one sometimes: "He barely exaggerated!" or: "That was a huge exaggeration." But I am not sure if "over exaggerate" is the same principle. It seems intended to describe a supposedly different concept, rather than a degree, but it doesn't actually imply a different concept, because exaggerate does not mean "moderately exaggerate."

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Drama teacher: Brian, I know I said that when on stage you should exaggerate your body language so that even the people in the back row can see that your character is upset, but please don't over-exaggerate.

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To say "over exagerate" is redundante. Exagerate is enough.

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Just as when something is "unique" or "not unique". You cannot say something is "very unique", etc.

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There are times when exaggeration is appropriate. But if it is taken too far... what else would it be called?

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