The Hyperbole of Internet-Speak

Parents with young children up to 25 years old can not keep up with the the hyperbolic  vocabularies, impressions, exaggerations  that being used  and changed in an almost daily bases.

“‘Literally dying’ has become, like, the new LOL,” she said, referring to the acronym for “laugh out loud,” which, of course, if you know literally anything about Internet speech, means precisely the opposite.


But such speech is not limited to them. “I can’t even” has been around for at least a few decades, part of a linguistic concept known as “negative polarity,” when there are two negatives in a sentence. The use of “literally” in situations where “figuratively” would fit perfectly — you know, it was literally 100 degrees just last week — has been in use since at least the 1700s, said Jane Solomon, a lexicographer at And hyperbole is in some ways necessary, as the impact of certain words erodes with time. (Think of how “great” used to mean really great, like Catherine the Great great, whereas now it’s hardly better than “good.”)

The Internet has taken all these speech patterns and hit them with a dose of caffeine: the need to express emotion in bite-size, 140-character bits; the fact that we must come up with increasingly creative ways to express tone and emphasis when facial cues are not an option. There’s a performative element, too: We are expressing things with an audience in mind.

“I think this may be one of the major parts for social media; you are stepping onto a stage,” said Tyler Schnoebelen, a linguist and founder of Idibon, a company that uses computer data to analyze language. “Performance generally requires the performer to be interesting. So do likes, comments and reshares. Exaggeration is one way to do that.”

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