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Isn't "exaggerated" enough? Is it right to say "over-exaggerated"?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Over-exaggerate is certainly in current use. The OED has three citations from 1900, 1928 and 1984 supporting the sense of the act of exaggeration which is in or to excess, too much, too.

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It certainly passes one significant "litmus test" for acceptability - Google Books has over 10,000 instances of 'overexaggerated' in written form that don't even include the hyphen. –  FumbleFingers Nov 4 '11 at 21:30

Common Errors in English Usage covers this topic:

“Over-exaggerated” is a redundancy. If something is exaggerated, it’s already overstressed.

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It doesn't cover it very well. –  Barrie England Nov 4 '11 at 19:01
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I think they under-exaggerate the severity of the error. –  Ben Brocka Nov 4 '11 at 19:06
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I think over-exaggerated is redundancy. I would avoid using it. Similarly, if something is unique, then it is unique, we don't call it very unique. –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Nov 4 '11 at 19:08
    
@MehperC.Palavuzlar Actually, it may be wrong, but I hear things like "very unique" all the time. It's pretty common to apply scaling adjectives to words which are actually more fixed in meaning. –  NickC Nov 4 '11 at 19:52
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It was good enough for Toad: ‘Toad Hall,’ said the Toad proudly, ‘is an eligible self-contained gentleman's residence, very unique.’ –  Barrie England Nov 4 '11 at 20:01

My initial thought is that over-exaggerated implies not only exaggerating, but exaggerating in a way that is excessive for the given context, or exaggerating to the point of absurdity. So, saying something like

The fish was 5 feet long!

I would consider exaggerating, but something like

the fish was a million feet long!

would be over-exaggerating.

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I would say "exaggerated" is enough. However, "over-exaggerated" could be used for the sake of a play on words.

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It's correct. It means to exaggerate in a way which is inappropriate(ly excessive) for the circumstances. Exaggeration is a technique used to create interest in a story, but it's over-use (obviously subjective - some would call x over-exaggeration, some wouldn't) is over-exaggeration.

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Over-Exaggeration doesn't make sense. Exaggeration implies that something is changed in a way to make it more interesting to someone listening to the story. I can see the point that others are making about it meaning more exaggerated, but the word exaggeration doesn't really end at any point. Let's use the "Fish" example... (Truth) a 30cm fish escaped from a pond (Exaggeration) A 2m long fish escaped from the pond (Exaggeration again) a 40cm fish escaped from the pond. No matter how much you change the variable, it will always be Exaggeration. Therefore, over-exaggeration doesn't make any sense.

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Why do you say it doesn't make sense? Is it contradictory? Or does it not make sense because it is redundant? Does 'over-' work as emphasis? –  Mitch Dec 30 '12 at 19:55

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