Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not Hyperbole

I'm reading Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage by William Safire.

A fumblerule is a mistake that calls attention to the rule. For example, Fumblerule #17 says, "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole." Safire explains that the word hyperbole means "intended excess," exaggeration designed to emphasize so wildly as not to mislead.

"I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles."

"A thousand pardons."

"We've been waiting forever."

"All the tea in China."

"Seventy times seven."


After reading the page on hyperbole last Sunday morning, I went to church, where we sang "Come Ye Sinners."

The chorus proclaims:

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
O there are ten thousand charms

I thought to myself, "Ten thousand charms! Look! Hyperbole!"

Lyricist Joseph Hart certainly intended to wildly emphasize the charms to be found in Jesus, but it occurred to me as I sang that in this case, "ten thousand" is not hyperbole.

It is a gross understatement. A gross, beautiful understatement.

The charms of Christ are infinite and unfathomable.

" comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." ~Ephesians 3:18-19