I just got back from a really long vacation with a lot of juicy stories. People are always accusing me of exaggerating. And though I won’t admit it to anyone, they’re probably right; I just like to think of it as embellishing for the sake of storytelling. Subtlety might be highly praised in other cultures, but us Americans, we like things louder and bigger and brighter, trust me on this – I was just at Disney World. And I’d argue that Israelis are just the same, only much louder… they just don’t like to admit it. That being said, the Hebrew word for exaggerate causes a lot of confusion for English speakers. In Hebrew, we’ve got the word להגזים which can mean so many things that all have their own expression in English. So it often comes off as funny when a Hebrew speaker uses “exaggerate” as a translation into English. So here’s a list of situations in which you would use the Hebrew word להגזים and what you should actually say in English.
· You have over done it.
We say this in cases where you have done too much, usually in a rather negative way; it’s a statement of concern and consternation.
You have a cold and worked all day long. You are chubby and out-of-shape and jogged 10 KM. You are really in shape and jogged 50 KM on a snowy day in your gym shorts. You have really over done it.
· You’ve gone overboard.
This one is very similar to the previous one. We say this when someone has done too much, but it’s perhaps a bit less harsh. You can say this to someone when you’re really pleased they have gone to a lot of trouble for you, in order to express that they didn’t really have to fuss quite as much.
You make a huge meal for someone expecting a sandwich, but who really wants a sandwich anyway? You’ve purchased three books for your friend’s birthday instead of one, but who doesn’t want three books? You’ve really gone overboard.
· You have out done yourself.
We say this when you’ve done more than was expected of you, but this time in a positive manner; the speaker is very impressed with your efforts.
You were supposed to prepare dinner but you’ve made a six course meal that includes homemade pasta and crème brulle. You usually straighten up the house on Friday but this time you also weeded the garden and ironed the drapes. Wow, you have really out done yourself.
· You have gone too far.
This one is negative too. We use it when someone has crossed a line or behaved too badly or done something one too many times.
You insulted her mother, her daughter and her cousin, but then you insulted her dog. You brought over some clothes, took over his closet and left a toothbrush in his bathroom, but when you put pink sheets on his bed, he said that you had gone too far.
· Over the top.
This one can be good or bad – it depends on the context. We use it for when something was a bit too much.
We knew he was crazy about her but a four carat diamond ring from Tiffany’s? That’s over the top. The wedding was just as extravagant – 800 people and live performances by Madonna, Sting and Michael Jackson back from the grave. It was totally over the top.
· Blowing things out of proportion.
This is pretty self-explanatory. You use it when someone is making a bigger deal than necessary about something.
You refuse to ever talk to your neighbor again because his dog accidentally peed on your roses. You quit your job because you got a room with a really lousy view. Well, once again you are blowing things totally out of proportion.
I think I can go on like this for pages – almost every time someone translates להגזים as exaggerate I can think of a more fitting expression. Let’s start with these and feel free to let me know if you have more.
Ahhh, you knew I would get to it eventually – the one you feel most comfortable throwing around. So there are instances when you should use exaggerate – and they all have to do with overstating something.
When you say that everything in Michigan is covered in melted processed cheese except the breakfast cereal. If you describe the fall you took after flying through the air on skis as being deadly (ok, so you got snow up your shirt from your waist to your chin and the bruises to prove it). When you describe the tickets to Disney World as costing a fortune and the roller coaster at Universal as the scariest thing in the world. Well, I wouldn’t admit it in a public forum, but yes, those things are exaggerations. Except the cheese. They really do put it on everything.
Exaggerations? probably. More entertaining? Definitely!