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This has been bugging me for a while, does anyone know what this word is? Maybe I imagined it. I thought it might have been "superfluous", but I don't think that is it, then I thought it might have been "hyperbole" but I do not think that is it either. Any thoughts?

Here is some context.

Person A: If a billion people view my web site, my server will crash. 
Person B: That is a ___ example.

The difference between the word that I am looking for and "hyperbolic" is that a hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally and this is.

Hope that helps.

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Could you provide some context? – Otavio Macedo Sep 29 '11 at 1:32
If hyperbolic and exaggerated are not suitable because the billion is to be taken literally, surely the observation is trivial or pointless. I'm sure that every website on the Net would crash if it had a billion visitors in a short space of time. Why would Person A bother to say this about his own site in particular? – FumbleFingers Sep 29 '11 at 4:27
Am I missing something? What's the problem with "unrealistic?" – XenElement Sep 30 '11 at 2:03

10 Answers 10

It sounds like you're looking for synonyms of unlikely. If so, implausible, far-fetched, or outlandish might suit you. In this context, dubious would also fit.

If you're looking for a phrase, someone might say "That's a reach" or "I don't see that happening any time soon."

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Person B: With the amount of traffic you get, your server should be fine.

Person A: If a billion people view my web site at once, my server will crash.

Person B: That is a contrived example.

The example Person A has given is made up simply to find a flaw in the observation Person B has made, so it is contrived

adjective - obviously planned or forced; artificial; strained: a contrived story.

Equally you could call the argument put forward by Person A a straw man argument

A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position

In your example the idea of a billion people all visiting the site at once is a straw man because it won't ever happen.

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Ahhh! I wish I could upvote your answer a hundred times :) I've had contrived at the tip of my tongue (edge of my mind?) ever since seeing this question and I haven't been able to think of it in order to answer. I was stuck on names for Person A, like Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy or maybe an excessive devil's advocate, but that didn't describe the behavior or example, as the question was asking. – aedia λ Sep 29 '11 at 22:41

Overreaction also seems appropriate for expressing this kind of excessive attitude.

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overreaction describes Person A's behavior, not the example that Person A provided. I'm looking for a word that describes the unlikely excess of the example. – Matthew J Morrison Sep 29 '11 at 2:00


Is excessive, towards the extreme but not to the extent of hyperbole.

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Two related phrases are "highly improbable" and "outside the bounds of possibility"; some other phrases that may be relevant, depending on what you wish to emphasize, are "academic question" (i.e., "a query which has an interesting answer but is of no practical use or importance"), "splitting hairs", "idle speculation", and "in the realm of fiction".

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I think any of the answers given are suitable. However, the questioner gave further clarification as a comment following a prior answer:

.... describes Person A's behavior, not the example that Person A provided. I'm looking for a word that describes the unlikely excess of the example

The "unlikely excess" of a situation (rather than an extreme of behavior or emotion) could be described as an edge case or a corner case. These terms were usually used in specific contexts i.e. computing, or solving differential equations. Both are used in every day conversation, in the past few years.

What is the difference between a corner case and an edge case?

An edge case is where the program logic meets a boundary condition... they are common

In contrast,

A corner case is where you meet more than one boundary condition at once... it will be encountered very rarely.

So corner case might be a more descriptive word choice, although I would choose edge case.

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Histrionic comes to mind. Or Dramatic, melodramatic, exorbitant, overmuch, excessive, extravagant, etc...

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If Person A is using the possibility of a billion viewers crashing the website as a way to discourage increased traffic, person A is using a slippery slope.

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"Going overboard" means "taking something to unrealistic extremes", even though it's not the part of speech you're looking for.

From the Free Dictionary:

to go to an extreme; to overdo; as, he went overboard at the buffet and got an upset stomach.

So you could say: "You've really gone overboard with that example."

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Sophistry-the use of fallacious arguments, esp. with the intention of deceiving.

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