“HYPERBOLE” is a beautiful word to behold, but baffling to pronounce. And if you happened to be a teacher in school, not least one teaching Literature or English, you’d better get it right. Your students will take after you happily if you say “HI-per-bowl”—a situation that could well be as bad as having some smart aleck correcting you in front of everyone else: “Sir, you’re pronouncing it wrong! It’s hi-PER-ber-lee.”
That, fortunately, didn’t happened to this one Literature teacher in a boys’ school I shall not name. It was one of those amusing tales I hear from time to time. Mister Hyperbowl just didn’t get it, my student reported, all tickled and amused. He was teaching the right concept, but saying it all wrong. And this, he kept up, for weeks, months, I don’t remember.
What I offered my student when he first told me about this mispronunciation goof-up was the Dale Carnegie lesson of never saying “You’re wrong.” What I regret was not encouraging him to do the kinder, nobler work of going up to the teacher, and taking the Carnegie lesson one step further: “Sir, I may be wrong, but I’ve heard it pronounced as ‘hi-PER-ber-lee’ elsewhere, perhaps you could let us know which is the right way of saying it?”
Thank goodness, Mister Hyperbowl did figure it out somehow one day. All’s well that ends well, and here is hyperbole:
exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
hyperbolical |ˌhaɪpərˈbɑlək(ə)l| (adj) ~ accent on the third syllable
hyperbolically |ˌhīpərˈbälik(ə)lē| (adv) ~ accent on the third syllable
hyperbolism |haɪˈpərbəˌlɪzəm| (n) ~ accent on the second syllable
late Middle English: via Latin from Greek huperbolē, which means ’excess’ (from huper ‘above’ + ballein ‘to throw’)
To listen to how it’s pronounced, click here: hyperbole
I invite you to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.