"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".
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- 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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
: 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 Mac Farlane 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.
- Mark Henry's nickname, the World's Strongest Man, wasn't hyperbole initially. He was actually a World's Strongest Man winner.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mr. Popo did in fact imbibe a literal gallon of LSD. Out of a milk jug.
- Cyanide and Happiness:
- Done several times. For example, a man is shown arguing with a woman. He concludes by telling her not to let the door hit her on the way out. When she walks out of the frame, an angry door on legs stomps by and right-hooks her in the face. See it here.◊
- The Order of the Stick:
Elan: But we don't need to be rescued! We're guests!
Durkon: Elan, when yer captor refers to ye as 'is "guests", he's just usin' an ironic euphemism. Yer na ACTUALLY 'is guests!
Elan: Except in this case, when we are.
Haley: Turns out the head general for this empire is Elan's long-lost father.
- It appears that one of these was the last straw in the marriage of Elan's parents.
Tarquin: You sound like your mother. "Oh Tarquin, you jerk! When you said that you would liquefy every man in the tavern if one of them grabbed my butt again during my shift, I didn't think you meant it!"
- When two people in Books Don't Work Here talk about how you should still be polite while playing God here, it's practical advice.
- Used in Questionable Content. One person says it's hyperbole, the other insists it isn't.
- Tagon from Schlock Mercenary does this:
Tagon: You know, for all I've threatened to do it in the past, this is the first time I've actually torn someone a new one with my bare hands.
- In Girl Genius, when Dr. Sun threatens to dismantle a battlemech with his bare fists, he means it.
- In Mindflayed the halfling just had to ask the wrong question◊. Or a horribly right question, depending how you look at it.
"...Would it be an understatement to say I was being sarcastic?"
- Used in Bob the Angry Flower to end a confrontation.
- Shortpacked!: When your boss has the ability to somehow resurrect dead historical figures, conversations can get a little awkward.
Ethan: I can't talk right now, Christmas shoppers are trampling Jesus. Manny, that's not a metaphor, Christmas shoppers are literally tramping Jesus.
- Though it does not actually happen in this case, Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire has the Prime Mover warn a local Intrepid Reporter that, if she should ever so much as think about revealing the secrets of the events that had transpired that day, her head would explode. This threat is, with good reason, taken entirely at face value.
Hyraxx: You're joking, right? I can't control my thoughts.
Prime Mover: I recommend a lobotomy.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.