Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I was watching a commercial for a new yet-to-be-released movie I had never heard of, and was amazed to learn from the excited voice-over…done by someone who obviously had far too much coffee before coming to work…that “Everyone is talking about it!” They are? Where have I been, under a rock?

Ah, hyperbole! It is wielded like a sledgehammer by the bottom-liners (who are far too often also bottom-feeders) who have taken over most of our society to exploit the gullible and turn the trusting into cynics. The result is that hyperbole has almost eliminated our ability or willingness to believe anything we’re told.

Hyperbole dictates that no adjective can be used unless it is a superlative. Nothing can be described as pleasant or enjoyable or merely good, it must be SPECTACULAR!! All TV and radio sales pitches must be delivered with an enthusiasm with overtones verging on hysteria, and the faster and louder the delivery, the more effective it apparently is in convincing people that they simply cannot live without whatever is being touted.

Have you ever seen an ad, anywhere, suggesting that you to take your time and think it over before you buy? Hardly. Advertising is based on the same basic motivational principle as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Don’t think: ACT!

You must “call within the next twenty five seconds” to qualify to shell out your money for some schlock bit of crap you neither need nor really want. (Does anyone…anyone…think that if you call an hour later they are going to refuse to sell it to you?) This same wonderful item, you are breathlessly assured, retails for 10 times its “One Time Only Special Sale Price.” And the fact that they usually throw in several other (“And Wait! There’s More!”) auxiliary useless gee-gaws clearly shows that they realize that if the product was any good, they wouldn’t have to throw in all the extraneous garbage to get you to buy it.

Hyperbole fuels the seemingly ubiquitous Home Shopping Networks which offer up unneeded items 24 hours a day and, worse, those stupefyingly inane infomercials which hire hordes of obviously mentally challenged people to sit in the “audience” to ooh and aaah and applaud wildly in response to every patently absurd claim.

Have you noticed how many advertisers take great pride in announcing that whatever they’re touting “is not sold in stores!” Logic—sorely lacking in the wonderful world of sales—clearly says that if something is not sold in stores, it is because the store doesn’t want it. I think this is known as “turning lemons into lemonade.”

When I first lived in Chicago there was a cheesy furniture store chain which regularly bought full page ads in all the papers announcing their GIGANTIC PRE-GROUNDHOG DAY SALE! which was followed the day after Groundhog Day with their GIGANTIC POST-GROUNDHOG DAY SALE! They probably did the same with National Pickle Week, but I can’t recall.

There was, when I lived in L.A., a place called “World Appliances,” which I grudgingly appreciated for its sheer chutzpah and creativity, since it gave them the right, in every ad, to boast that they had “World’s Lowest Prices!!”

Save Big Money!” “Piled High!” “....and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity!” “While Supplies Last!” “Everything must go!”

All of which just goes to prove H.L. Mencken was right in saying “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

In my personal lexicon, “hyperbole” has two synonyms: “Snake Oil” and “Bullshit.” But wait...there's more!

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Vastine Bondurant said...

So funny you posted this today.
I'd just been thinking about writing and how so many feel the need for 'gimmicks' to sell their product. Sort of reminds me of the old time carnival barking. And I just can't...can' it.

But you're so right. Advertising, with the help of the TV and radio mediums, is now louder than ever.

Kage Alan said...

I would love to see one of these for hospitals. We have one in the area that does the exact opposite. What we typically hear is:

"Do you have a slight pain in your chest? Your heart could stop beating at a moment's notice...and you could die in a bloody, twisted, metallic wreck in your vehicle, another highway statistic because you didn't get that heart check. Do YOU have a Beaumont doctor?"

Yeah...hospitals could use a little hyperbole.