So Cold Our Sunbeams Have Turned to Icicles

A week or so ago The Write Practice posted an interesting article on hyperbole and adynation. See

It’s so cold today that my thoughts want to go to extremes in description. At 8am this morning it was -34 C (-28F) with a wind chill factor below -40. And that is cold! Wasn’t it poet Robert W Service that wrote about words spoken outside being frozen in midair and you had to take them inside and thaw them to hear what the person said to you?

Hyperbole is exaggeration that draws an extreme parallel of sorts. It’s used to emphasize a point or a feeling. “His nose is out of joint” is a common one that comes to mind. Or “once in a blue moon.” Yes, there is actually such a thing as a blue moon, but it doesn’t come often.

Other suggestions:
— “Yeah, she shows up every now and then. When it snows in Miami.”
— “I’ll start loving liver when cats start loving dogs.” (In fact I avoid it like the plague, but that’s a cliche now.)
— He’ll learn to keep out of trouble when deer stop jumping in front of cars.
— She’ll quit running back to him when seagulls quit following fishing boats.

Now if I say, “It’s so cold our sunbeams land as icicles and I’ve had to dodge quite a few today,” that would be adynaton, or completely unbelievable exaggeration.

One day when I was back for a visit to the prairies my brother told me, “It’s been so dry out here we have frogs two years old that still haven’t learned to swim.” You get the picture of a parched and barren land? Actually there are rivers and lakes here — and frogs that swim in them.

Then there’s the old joke about the Scotsman: “When he was filling up at the service station he saw the sign ‘Free Air.’  So he drove over to the pump and blew out four tires.”

Used wisely these are some techniques that can give color to your writing. The Write Practice article writer, Liz Bureman, gives the common example, “when pigs fly.” Here are a few other suggestions:
— when mice meow
— when the sun turns green
— when the moon turns to cream and pours into the Big Dipper
— when it snows scarlet feathers
— when elephants start throwing peanuts back at the tourists

Do you have any other examples to share, some you have read or dreamed up?


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