Not Hyperbole

"When someone says 'We've got people everywhere', you expect it to be hyperbole! Lots of people say that. Florists use that expression. It doesn't mean that they've got somebody working for them inside the bloody room!"

It is a staple of fiction, and indeed casual dialog, to exaggerate when describing something. Everyone has heard it before: "I'm gonna hit you into next week!" "I'm the biggest baddest guy in town!" "He's the size of a house." We all know the people saying these things don't actually mean what they're saying. They're just using dramatic flair, that's all. It enhances the conversation or makes it funnier. So when the Mighty Glacier tells his opponent that he's about to be punched through a wall, he can't actually do what he just said.

Unless he then proceeds to do exactly what he just said.

That's where this trope comes in. Not Hyperbole is when exaggerations and hyperboles that we've all become used to in conversation is neither exaggeration or hyberbole. The character means exactly what he just said and nothing less and usually proceeds to prove it.

Usually part of a Badass Boast. See also Literal Metaphor. Literal Ass Kicking is a subtrope. "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer is a common variation. My God, You Are Serious may follow as well, if another character realizes that this trope is in play.

And incidentally, it's pronounced "Hy-PER-bo-lee," not "Hyper-bowl".


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: Weather Wizard states despite being a family man, he was not kidding about threatening to place a tornado into someone's belly, and actually carries it out.
    Weather Wizard: That was never an empty threat.
  • X-Men: When Quentin Quire apparently died, Charlies Xavier realized that he was actually becoming an Energy Being. This is how he explained it:
    Professor X: Quentin Quire was liberated from his physical cocoon and born into a higher world at 4:32 this afternoon. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but in this case we believe it to be the literal truth.
  • Preacher: When Jody says he's going to "pull yore Goddamn head off so ol' T.C. can shit down yore neck", it's going to lead to T.C. saying "I better do my part. Either've you got any Kleenex, or'm I gonna have to wipe with my hand?"

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert
    • Alice will often follow through on her implausible threats, for instance when she stuffed Asok into his own shirt sleeve and punted him into the ceiling.
    • She's also promised to "punch someone into next week" (or next <insert day of week here>), only for the last panel to show them emerging from a time portal. Several times.
    • In another she threatened to punch a man so hard he'd have to drop his pants to say hello. The past panel shows a pair of arms sticking out of the top of a pair of pants, and Dilbert and Wally wondering what that odd "Melp, melp!" sound is.
    • On another occasion she threatens to punch someone with an MBA so hard that everyone else with the same degree feels it. Cut to Dilbert and Wally talking to a third guy who suddenly doubles over in pain.
  • Garfield once kicked Odie into next week. True enough, Odie didn't appear until the following Monday, when he fell on Garfield.
  • U.S. Acres:
    • Because of his allergy to flowers, Roy doesn't like it when Booker brings any to the chicken coop. One time, he said "Don't bring those flowers in here! You want me to sneeze my feathers off?!" Enraged, Booker picks a giant flower and brings it to Roy in retaliation. The sneeze was so strong that both Roy and Booker lost their feathers.
    • In one strip, Lanolin threatens to slap Roy's beak to the moon. She literally does that later.

  • In Walking in the Shadows, when D'hoffryn refers to Xander as a "Paladin of snack foods", he's dead serious as demonstrated when Xander magically heals people emotionally with hugs.
  • After getting fed up with SG-1's insistence they sign NDAs before being told anything about what's going on in Not In Kansas, Kara threatens to drop kick O'Neil into the Atlantic Ocean if he doesn't start talking. When he still tries to get her to wait until everyone has signed a NDA, Kara asks if he'd prefer landing in the North or South Atlantic.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used and lampshaded by M in Quantum of Solace, for the sheer Refuge in Audacity, as per the quote above. For context: Bond drags in a bad guy at the beginning of the movie who is resistant to interrogation. When the bad guy smugly informs Bond that, "Well, one thing you should know is that we have people everywhere," one of M's personal bodyguards pulls out his weapon and tries to assassinate her.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, when a couple of guards harass Riddick's friend Kyra, Riddick calmly informs one that he can kill him with a tea cup. And then he does. Next, he holds up a key to a sardine tin and puts it down meaningfully in the same place where the tea cup was — and the other two get the hell out of there.
  • From the John Ritter film Hero at Large, Steve is talking to his agent Marty about Marty not getting him any stage work (instead of all the commercials he's doing).
    Steve: Marty, how much can you do with, "That's what I call beer"? Marty, get me a play, any play.
    Marty: It's not like you never had one. Last summer, Shakespeare in the Park.
    Steve: I carried a spear. Marty, that's a joke. When an actor says he carried a spear, he doesn't mean he carried a spear. I. Carried. A spear.
  • Hancock goes to prison and tells some prisoners to leave him alone or "your head is going up his ass". They don't leave him alone. The first one's head goes up the second one's ass. It is humiliating.
  • The Watch: Bob threatens to rip his daughter's boyfriend's dick out with his bare hands. During the climax of the film he does just that. The boyfriend is an alien, and that's where his brain was.
  • The Nutty Professor
    • Dean Richmond provides a memorable example in the Eddie Murphy remake:
      Dean Richmond: You won't. I know you won't. As a matter of fact, I know you're going to be perfect! Do you know how I know all these things? I know them because if you're not perfect, nevermind the yelling, the screaming and the firing. If anything goes wrong, for any reason... I'm going to kill you. And I don't mean that as a euphemism, I am going to literally kill you. I'm going to strangle you and choke off your air supply until you pass away.
    • Buddy threatens him with an Ironic Echo near the end of the movie.
  • Kick-Ass 2: Mindy states at one point that she can kill a man with his own finger. As Black Death finds out the hard way during the final fight, she's not kidding. So when she says she is going to feed a guy his own dick, that is also true.
  • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Grandpa Potts at first assumes that the Baron's threat to "stuff [his] head with cauliflower and feed it to the ducks" if he can't reinvent his son's car is either a joke or an exaggeration. However, the other scientists in the lab assure him that the Baron's threats are never jokes, giving some unpleasant descriptions of what he's done to them. (A very tall scientist there claims he was a midget before they started using a stretch rack on him.)
  • In The Wolverine, when Logan tells Noburo he has ten words to explain what's going on, he means ten words.

  • The Dresden Files:
    • A Black Court vampire, Mavra, once got away with successfully blackmailing Harry's friend Murphy, by having evidence that would destroy her. After nearly killing himself to ensure Murphy's protection, Harry tells Mavra in no uncertain terms that this will never happen again, and that if anything happens to Murphy, he's declaring war on her, personally, and that he will pick up every weapon he has at his disposal to end Mavra.
    • Fast forward to Changes, and another vamp has kidnapped Harry's daughter. And he picks up every weapon he has, and is fully ready and willing to sell his soul and worse to get even more weapons. The only two in his arsenal he holds back on the Darkhallow and the Denarius. And then proceeds to exterminate the entire Red Court of vampires. All of them. And for the record, if he had to use the Darkhallow or the Denarius, he would have. Without hesitation. Fortunately for him, he had a less evil option.

      What's worrying is that selling his soul, then performing human sacrifice (of the woman he loves and mother of his child), to commit genocide and arguable pantheocide is the less evil option. And that's without all the evil-enabling consequences left by the power vacuum he creates. However, seeing that literally every member of the Red Court killed remorselessly multiple times: they reaped what they sowed.
    • Also, Mouse's bark has been described as loud enough it can be heard from a mile away. Later, in an odd turn of events, Mouse shows that he was holding back, and if anything, the entire cast underestimated him.
    • When Lara Raith starts getting a little too physical with Harry, Ebenezer McCoy threatens to wipe her off the earth and leave her family with nothing but a pair of five-hundred dollar shoes to bury. Lara is a vampiress. She is armed, surrounded by bodyguards and ready for a fight. She, and everyone around her, know that if the old hillbilly wanted to turn her into a charred, greasy smear, he could and he would and there is literally nothing she could do to stop him.
    • In Skin Game Harry muses that Mab will crucify him if he fails to follow through on helping Nicodemus steal the Holy Grail. He is not joking. In fact, if he doesn't follow through, he would be lucky to get off with just crucifixion.
  • From Earth (The Book):
    Q: How many insects are there currently on Earth?
    A: 500 quintillion.
    Q: How rough an estimate is that?
    A: That is the exact number.
  • The Wheel of Time has a woman break down in hysterics when she discovers the body of a man who's been murdered by the gholam: "However many times she had heard of a person torn limb from limb, she had never seen the results before."
  • In Robin Mc Kinley's The Hero and the Crown, Luthe tells Aerin, "I will love you until the stars crumble, which is a much less idle threat than is usual for lovers on parting." He is indeed not kidding: he's immortal.
  • In Words Of Radiance, second book of The Stormlight Archive, part of the reason Adolin is willing to enter an Arranged Marriage is because he has had horrible luck with women; his aunt even claims he has offended every eligible woman in the warcamps. Throughout the book, every single time he runs into an eligible woman, she is personally annoyed at him. Every one.
  • Discworld
    • In Hogfather, mention is made of Biers, a bar where the undead drank. "When Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn't mix a metaphor."
    • In Mort, Death's Apprentice Mort manages to piss of Death so he strikes him across the face. Later book presented Death's grand-daughter Susan, daughter to Mort and Death's adopted daughter Ysabell. Susan has three pararell skeletal-looking birth-marks on her left cheek — Death really did punch Mort so hard that his future children felt it.
  • The Age of Fire's Red Queen once told AuRon that she couldn't be bothered to die. And thanks to her Cloning Gambit and Body Surfing abilities, this turns out to be true, even decades after her apparent death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Micallef Program, Shaun introduces a guest with "My next guest needs no introduction" and then stares silently into the camera for a beat before the guest walks onstage.
  • Supernatural
    • There are some people who will claim that they're older than God. Death might actually be telling the truth. (Maybe. Neither Death nor God can remember anymore.)
    • Similarly, in "Dark Side of the Moon", Dean tells the men who are about to kill him that he'll come back and kill them. Sure enough.... Of course, Dean had already pulled that trick once before, and he knew that the angels wouldn't let them stay dead for long.
  • In Arrested Development Lucille is one of the world's worst drivers. Her clip from World's Worst Drivers showed her responding to a space she might have had to parallel park into by driving in vertically, leaving her car covering half the road.
  • In one episode of Parks and Recreation, Ron goes into a diner and asks the waiter to give him "all the bacon and eggs you have." When the waiter starts to leave, Ron stops him and adds:
    Ron: I'm worried that what you heard was, "give me a lot of bacon and eggs." What I said was, "give me all the bacon and eggs you have."
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo claims about G'Kar. "I will kill him one day." Without prompting, he explains it isn't a threat, it isn't him being annoyed. Centauri have prophetic dreams. He knows that they will die strangling each other. Years later, they do. Although it doesn't go the way we originally thought it would.
    • Marcus makes a Badass Boast when trying to get some thugs to talk, and then follows through on it when the thugs remained silent:
      Marcus: Because if you don't, then in five minutes I'll be the only person at this table still standing. Five minutes after that, I'll be the only person in this room still standing. So, who's in?
      (five minutes and a room full of senseless, drooling thugs later)
      Marcus: Bugger! Now I have to wait for someone to wake up!
    • The words, "I'll never leave you, Delenn, not if the whole universe stood between us," read as textbook Romantic Hyperbole, right? Yeah, not when you're John Sheridan. The universe does, and he doesn't.
  • An interesting inversion, a Not Understatement / Not Sarcasm Mode, if you will: In Sherlock (a reimagination of the Sherlock Holmes mythos in the 21st century), the first episode has John Watson being kidnapped and confronted by an upperclass gentleman who casually refers to himself as "the closest thing to a friend that [Sherlock] is capable of having: An enemy. He would probably call me his Arch-Enemy." He offers to put Watson on his payroll in exchange for information on Holmes' movements, since "I worry about him... constantly." All of this screamed Professor Moriarty to the well-read viewer, only for us to learn at the end of the episode that the shadowy figure is, in fact, Mycroft Holmes — Sherlock's older brother.
    John: So, when you say you're concerned about him... you really are concerned?
    Mycroft: Yes, of course.
    John: And when you said it's a childish feud... it really is a childish feud?
  • On Everybody Hates Chris, Chris imagines his mother slapping him into next week by showing the family at dinner with him missing. When asked where he is, his mother answers she "slapped him into next week. He'll be back on Tuesday"
  • In How I Met Your Mother, whenever anyone asked Barney what his job was, he'd only respond with a dismissive "Heh, please." In the final season, it's revealed that Please is literally his job title, and his job description is an acrostic of it. Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything.
  • On Frasier, the title character's devious agent brags about her relationship with the station's negotiator.
    Bebe: Oh, we go way back, the Hammer and I. I know where the bodies are buried. (beat) Usually that's just a metaphor.
  • When Seth MacFarlane was presenting at the Oscars, he had the responsibility for introducing, among others, one particular presenter. So MacFarlane walked up to the microphone, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, our next presenter needs no introduction," and walked away. The presenter in question was Meryl Streep, the greatest — and most famous — living actress in the world; she literally needed no introduction.

    New Media 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Mark Henry's nickname, the World's Strongest Man, wasn't hyperbole initially. He was actually a World's Strongest Man winner.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Muppet Movie, Professor Krassman, the world's leading expert on mind control in frogs, promises a revelation so intense that the listener will have to hold on to his hat... and refuses to continue until Doc Hopper has a death-grip on his hat.
    Pr. Krassman: When a German scientist says hold on to your hat, it's not casual conversation! Hold on to your hat! Hat! HOLD!... Good!

  • At the end of Act One of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka sings to the Golden Ticket winners (as part of his Welcoming Song / "I Am Great!" Song "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen") "Your life's about to change now/So don't get left behind". In Act Two, as he leads them through the factory, this promise proves to be absolutely true for all the members of the tour group, as his world brings either catastrophe or happiness upon its visitors depending on their inherent natures.

    Video Games 
  • Duke Nukem 3D:
    • The second boss fight has Duke threaten to "tear off [his] head and shit down [his] neck." Successfully beating the boss leads to a cutscene where he actually does it.
    • He does it again with the third boss, saying "The last thing going through your mind will be my size 12 boot." He then proceeds to punt the Cyclopean Emperor's eye as an American football through the goal posts.
  • In The Secret Of Monkey Island, Guybrush claims he can hold his breath for 10 minutes. When he finds himself trapped underwater, if the player waits exactly 10 minutes, he will drown.
  • Planetary Annihilation clearly is just a continuation of Total Annihilation, showing that it's more about planets now, right? Wrong. Players can have great fun completely annihilating celestial bodies.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, a literal incarnation of fear claims that he is your worst nightmare.
  • in Off, the first boss Dedan boasts: "I'm the guardian of zone 1! It ain't nothing without me!" If you try to enter the zone after beating him, you'll find yourself in an empty landscape, devoid of color and (mostly) devoid of life. Enoch later confirms that the death of a Guardian causes his Zone and all its inhabitants to fade away.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Heavy loves calling his enemies "babies". In a spin-off comic, he calls a group of large bears this, just before their massive mother appears.
  • One of the heartwarming moments in Transistor is when the Spine keeps trying to crush Red with its tail, the Transistor is going a bit loopy and losing touch, and Red (whose voice has been stolen) finds a computer terminal and uses it to communicate by text, reassuring her Empathic Weapon that they'll get through this, and promising to defeat the Spine and break its heart. One of the awesome moments is just after the ensuing boss battle, when Red literally trudges into the monster's body and slices its heart in half.

    Web Animation 
  • In an early season of Red vs. Blue, Church recounts a time when Tex pulled out an enemy's skull and then beat him to death with it. Naturally, upon hearing this, Tucker declares, "What? That doesn't seem physically possible!" to which Church replies: "That's exactly what Jimmy kept screaming." And sure enough...
  • In One Ring to Rule Them All, Sauron tells Wayne the goblin that he'll get a job as an evil henchman in 5 seconds. Literally.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Several early stories had people joking about how one of these days someone would make Phase mad and suddenly the national economy would strike back. Turns out that was never a joke. In 'Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy 6' Phase gets angry enough to sic the patent law departments at every single electronics company on two mad scientists who pissed him off, just to bankrupt them. He only calls it off because a friend came up with a nastier plan - namely unleashing a whole bunch of other angry Mad Scientists.
  • Kami wasn't kidding when he said Mr. Popo dropped a gallon of LSD in Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    Piccolo: A gallon?!
    Kami: A literal gallon. Out of a milk jug.
  • In Sean Bean Saves Westeros (in which the actor appears in White Harbor the same day Ned Stark is beheaded, and subsequently takes his place in the new world, as well as taking advantage of book foreknowledge to help Stannis win the war), Sandor Clegane threatens Littlefinger and Varys with pissing on their dead mouths if they do not shut up. When Littlefinger tries to get Sansa out of King's Landing and to the Vale, Sandor kills him and, to quote the story, "The last thing to go through Lord Petyr Baelish's mockingbird of a mouth was not a wry insult, nor pretty, manipulating words, but Sandor Clegane's piss."

    Western Animation 
  • The Angry Beavers episode "Same Time Last Week" focuses on Dagget annoying his brother Norbert. Norb threatens to punch Dag into last week, and he does... Only for Dagget to start annoying him all over again. It goes on and on, until finally when trying avoid annoying Norb, he ends up getting punched back to the stone age.
  • On an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Cree threatens to turn the treehouse upside down if Numbuh One doesn't tell her where her sister is. He tells her to go ahead and try it. Cut to the treehouse literally turned upside down and a dazed and very bruised up Numbuh One stating he didn't think she could actually do it.
  • Archer:
    • This exchange:
      Cyril: I got the 50 million in bearer bonds.
      Spelvin: Unbelievable!
      Cyril: (smiling as if complimented) Well, I...
      Spelvin: No, I mean I literally don't believe you.
    • At the end of the fifth season premiere, after it's announced ISIS will shut down, Archer reveals they've been sitting on "Literally — not figuratively — a ton of cocaine."
    • Subverted when Cyril becomes a dictator and Cheryl claims he has a nuclear missile. Jump Cut to Krieger and his clones working on a giant missile. Then jump cut back to Cheryl, where she explains she was actually talking about his penis (said missile turns out to be something neither Cyril nor Cheryl knew about).
  • Metalocalypse:
    Nathan: Aw man, I hate Finland. I need a hundred beers.
    (cut to a bar)
    Nathan: I need a hundred beers. Exactly. Exactly one hundred. Thank you.
  • Inverted in the American Dad! episode "Moon Over Isla Island", where Roger has been duped into disguising himself and standing in for the dictator of an island nation, mistakenly thinking he's simply in costume and the Presidental palace he is staying in is simply a 5-star hotel. When he is served dinner he doesn't like he describes in detail how the chef should be mutilated and killed, and unbeknownst to him his "order" is carried out.
  • In Madballs: Escape from Orb, after Bruise Brother (one of Commander Wolfbreath's goons) makes fun of her hair, Freakella says she'd like to pound him flat, fold him into a paper airplane, and send him flying into an open garbage can. Later in the cartoon she does exactly that.
  • In the very first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash tells a skeptical Twilight she can clear the sky in ten seconds flat. If you time the clearing sequence, it takes her exactly ten seconds.
  • Looney Tunes, "Muscle Tussle": Daffy Duck loses his girlfriend to a strong duck who threatened to pound Daffy's head so far down, he would need to unbutton his shirt to eat. The muscle-head proceeds to make good on that threat.
    • In the Sylvester cartoon "Hippety Hopper", Sylvester gets taken down by a mouse working with Hippety Hopper, the baby kangaroo. Spike, the house bulldog, decides to take the mouse down himself. After the mouse and Hopper kick Spike out of the house, the mouse announces, "And if you come back in, I'll pin your ears back!"
      Spike: Any time a mouse can pin my ears back, I'll take up ballet dancing. (enters house, gets knocked back with a clothespin on his ears)
      Sylvester: Well, I see you got your ears pinned back.
      Spike: C'mon, cat. (drags Sylvester into his doghouse, they then emerge in tutus) We're takin' up ballet dancin'. (dance and exeunt)
  • Tom and Jerry: Spike the bulldog once threatened to skin Tom alive if Tom ever bothered Tyke again. At the end of the story, Tom was wearing a Bankruptcy Barrel while Spike, Tyke and Jerry were sleeping on a rug made of his skin.
  • In an episode of The Smurfs, the Trokkle King has an advisor, who he never listens to. When the advisor gets upset and complains that there's no point in a king even having an advisor if he never listens to advice, the king thinks that makes sense — and fires the advisor. Realizing he made things worse, the advisor fools the king into abdicating his throne to Brainy Smurf... But Brainy not only won't listen to his advice, he won't listen to anyone, so now all the trokkles decide to overthrow him. When the original Trokkle King finds out about this, he gets frightened and warns the other smurfs, because he knows that when the trokkles overthrow a king, they throw him over a cliff, literally.
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "The Retroville 9", during Jimmy's team's rematch against Butch's team Butch threatens that if Jimmy hits the next ball he'll eat his hat. After Jimmy hits the ball he does exactly that, saying that it's actually not bad.
  • In a similar vein to the above, in The Simpsons episode "Ned 'N Edna's Blend" when Flanders and Mrs. Krabappel reveal that they're married, Bart reminds Homer that he said if Flanders ever remarried he'd eat his hat. His hat, in this case, was the Crown of Thorns he was wearing as Jesus in a play (long story) but fortunately for him it's made out of licorice.
    Homer: Mmmm...sacrilegious.
    • After being injured in a prison rodeo, a Homer said "I can't complain." while in the infirmary, then points to a sign that says "No complaining". Upon being informed that only applied to the prisoners, he felt free to complain about his injuries and his life in general.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Laziest", Larry calls Richard "lazier than a rock". Larry is an anthropomorphic rock, and he lost to Richard in a laziness contest in 1983, so this is literally true.
    • In "The Quest", Anais calls Tina's house a dump. It turns out that Tina actually does live in a dump.
    • Implied in "The Tape" when Ninja George says he'll never raise his fist again, then eats a sandwich with his foot.
    • In "The Fraud", Gumball says he and Darwin have been ashamed so many times in their lives that they're now incapable of feeling shame. Darwin then takes apart Gumball's brain to show that he's run out of "shame-osterone".
    • In "The Void", Mr. Small says Janis could never go anywhere without him. It's true, not because Janis cares about him, but because Janis is his van. He's also not exaggerating when he says she "runs on good vibes"; gently patting the dashboard gives the van a tremendous speed boost.

    Real Life 
  • Werner Herzog once told Errol Morris that he would eat his shoe if Morris ever completed the film that he had been labouring over. When Gates of Heaven premiered, he did exactly that.
  • This trope is very unfortunately inverted with the word "literal" as commonly used.