Saturday, January 5, 2013

over-exaggerated/exaggerated: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, January 5, 2013

“Over-exaggerated” is a redundancy. If something is exaggerated, it’s already overstressed.


  1. Wrong. If you're over-exaggerating something, you're exaggerating it too much.


    1. That is a good point and an excellent discussion on the page you link to, nomulous, but for myself I'll still stick with "exaggerated."

      This is a case where the creative addition of "over" before a word that has that sense already built into it seems excessive (or overly excessive, if you will), and the rewards for doing it seem slim.

      Still, I like the example in the link you provide:

      My initial thought is that over-exaggerated implies not only exaggerating, but exaggerating in a way that is excessive for the given context, or exaggerating to the point of absurdity. So, saying something like

      The fish was 5 feet long!

      I would consider exaggerating, but something like

      the fish was a million feet long!

      would be over-exaggerating.

      . . . which shows, at least, a thoughtful approach to using "over-exaggerating," so for some, anyway, there is validity to the expression.

      This comes down to personal taste along with an understanding that sticking "over" in front of "exaggerate" will, to some ears, make it seem like you don't appreciate the work that the plain word "exaggerate" does.

      But keep in mind this opinion is coming from someone who never bristles in the slightest over another common bugaboo: "very unique." I understand that liberal use of "very unique" will earn the scorn of many--so I don't tend to use it in writing and don't use it much in speech, either, at least not consciously--and I offer no explanation for why "over-exaggerate" sounds unnecessary to me but "very unique" or (better) "quite unique" never gives pause. I like to use Walt Whitman as my permission slip in cases such as this:

      Do I contradict myself?
      Very well then I contradict myself,
      (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

  2. Actually, the word "very" is meaningless, as are the words near, nearly, approximate, almost, far, few, little, . . . .

    I mean, what is the diff between good and very good?

  3. Nice try, nomulous, but no cigar. Overexaggerate is not a word. This sounds like the lowbrow attempt by some to push "misunderestimate" as a word. You either exaggerate a point or you don't. You can't over or under exaggerate something.