Ironic Hyperbole

A little bit of stretching
May not leave one’s readers kvetching,
But it really is a case of “less is more”
Don’t compare a man to Hitler
If his crimes are vastly littler
Just remember what comparisons are for
If your similes are ruthless
You’ll be widely known as truthless
And despite your every effort to resist
You’ll have earned a reputation
That you like exaggeration
And your arguments will largely be dismissed

Or as Ogden Nash might have said…

Avoid overusing hyperbole
Unless you can do it superbole

In an ironically smug and annoying article, “How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet” (which I had to read over three times because I really truly wanted it to be intentionally ironic–I would still love for that to be the case, but I do not think it is), Brendan O’Neill engages in a bit of hyperbole–and not just in the title.

These days, barely a week passes without the emergence of yet more evidence that atheists are the most irritating people on Earth. Last week we had the spectacle of Dawkins and his slavish Twitter followers (whose adherence to Dawkins’ diktats makes those Kool-Aid-drinking Jonestown folk seem level-headed in comparison) boring on about how stupid Muslims are. This week we’ve been treated to new scientific research claiming to show that atheists are cleverer than religious people. I say scientific. I say research. It is of course neither; it’s just a pre-existing belief dolled up in rags snatched from various reports and stories. Not unlike the Bible. But that hasn’t stopped the atheistic blogosphere and Twitterati from effectively saying, “See? Told you we were brainier than you Bible-reading numbskulls.”

Now, I don’t happen to follow Dawkins on twitter, so I can’t actually speak to that first bit. I suppose it is possible that 900+ people killing themselves is rational in comparison to defending an author. I don’t really know. But yeah, that bit about the atheist blogosphere getting all egotistical is dead on. Well, you know, except for the articles critically analyzing the report, including (but certainly not limited to) FtB’s contributions by PZ and by Stephanie. The newspapers, yes, have done a bang-up job oversimplifying the paper, but not so much the “teeth-gratingly annoying” atheists.

Anyway, the rest of the article is annoying, too, but probably not as irritating as mass suicide, let alone as irritating as Dawkins’s followers apparently are, but my question is this:

Have you seen worse use of hyperbole?


  1. dukeofomnium says

    In the entire history of mankind, this is by far the most grandiose use of hyperbole.

  2. says

    I wonder if annoyingness occurs at a higher rate among atheists than in the general population? I can only speak for myself, of course, and I’m certainly annoying. But I was annoying way, way before I stopped believing in God.

  3. haitied says

    I used to make Kool-aid jokes until I watched a pretty thorough documentary on the Jonestown tragedy. While some folks did indeed gladly take the poison by request of Jim Jones, many were forced to do so at gunpoint mothers forced to feed their babies poison. There was no video but the audio was horrifying.

  4. MaryL says

    Aren’t murders, rapists and child molesters (to name a few categories) a hell of a lot more “annoying” than atheists?

  5. Shplane, Spess Alium says

    Hey now, I’m a pretty big fan of ironic hyperbole.

    It just has to be, y’know, funny.

  6. Karst says

    “Avoid overusing hyperbole
    Unless you can do it superbole”

    That has to be one of your best couplets ever. Is there any chance you will ever let it be quoted under your real name, rather than as originating from The Digital Cuttlefish?

  7. zackoz says

    Seconded about the couplet!

    And Ogden Nash would have been immensely proud of it, if he had written it.

  8. Karst says

    Touche, Cuttlefish! You “dance” well….

    I am reminded of another creator of outstanding wordplay, namely Nietzsche:

    Fiir Tanzer

    Glattes Eis

    Ein Paradeis

    Fiir den, der gut zu tanzen weiss.

    Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

    Or, as translated by Walter Kaufmann:

    For Dancers

    Smooth ice
    is paradise
    for those who dance with expertise.

    from The Gay Science

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