Opinion: Dying to know

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Life is filled with hyperbole. In the modern Christmas classic “Elf,” the good-hearted, if excessively naïve protagonist, is walking the streets of Manhattan when he spots a neon sign bedazzling a basement-level, greasy spoon boasting that it serves the “world’s best coffee!” Elf, understandably impressed, rushes in to congratulate the befuddled staff on what he imagines must be a significant accomplishment of some renown. It is all harmless enough, and as Elf loses a little of his own innocence, he comes to understand the nuanced difference between a bit of puffery and downright lying.

So, how do we identify the distinction? Is the notion polled by absolutes or subjective measures? When does a bit of hyperbole go too far? Most might assume that when a 7-year-old claims they are “dying for an ice cream cone” that death is an unlikely result, even if the treat is denied. But pundits and protestors routinely carry bloody banners reporting that people are “dying” in the cause. Discussing the current disruption caused by yet another European transit strike, the fellow stranded traveler waxed poetic about those who were dying because of poor wages and long hours. Maybe. It could be plausible. Stress is a measured killer.

Asked, “Who is dying? When did they die? What killed them, specifically?” The traveler answered, “Well, I don’t know, but you get the point.”  Not really, but we are dying to know.

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