Example : Paul McCartney said "If Slaughter Houses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." Now, it also means that everyone who works at a slaughter house is a vegetarian. But, what Paul actually wanted to convey was that slaughter houses are so cruel that you'd feel like quitting non-veg completely. Is there any word for such statements?

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    Perhaps hyperbole. – Dan Bron Oct 10 '15 at 14:37
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    @A.P. Yes, and the statement that "if slaughterhouses had glass walls the entire world would turn vegetarian" is an exaggeration. – Dan Bron Oct 10 '15 at 14:44
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    A small point about your interpretation: I think the phrase isn't talking about the workers. They would be able to see how animals are slaughtered with or without glass walls. The point is a glass-walled slaughterhouse would let everyone who passed by see how their meat is slaughtered. – Graham Nicol Oct 10 '15 at 14:45
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    (A) Never say never. The whole point of the documentaries and the campaigns is to change the legislation. (B) It's not a hyperbole because the point of the glass walls is not to exaggerate, but to convey the idea of transparency, truth, knowledge. It is an implicit comparison. Hence, a metaphor. – A.P. Oct 10 '15 at 15:55
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    @Rathony (A) I refer to transparency, truth and knowledge because that's the point of the metaphor. Glass is transparent, so you can see the truth through it. And seeing gives you experiential (not theoretical) knowledge, which (according to Paul McCartney) should move a person to becoming a vegetarian. (B) You missed my point about the legislation, but that's irrelevant to the current discussion. – A.P. Oct 10 '15 at 16:29

I think he is using a hyperbole to convey the image of animals being slaughtered in front you, whose repulsive view would turn you into a vegetarian:

  • A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.
  • Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
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    So what exactly is exaggerated, in your opinion? I obviously agree that everyone is an exaggeration, but is that enough to call the whole thing a hyperbole? I disagree that the emphasis is on everyone. I believe the point of the quote is the glass walls, which is no hyperbole, but a metaphor for being able to see inside a slaughterhouse. – A.P. Oct 10 '15 at 14:58
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    While the 'glass wall' can be a metaphor of transparency and truth, the whole sentence refers to a fantasy, an exaggeration (have you ever seen Slaughter Houses with glass walls? ) to convey a shock, a strong effect on the listener. – user66974 Oct 10 '15 at 15:15
  • I don't think a mere element of exaggeration makes it a hyperbole. The exaggeration of numbers, duration, weight, or similar has to be the point of the statement. Just look at the examples under the link you provided: I waited for eternity, she weigh a ton, etc. In the original quote, the only exaggeration is everyone. But the main point is the glass wall metaphor of transparency. That's the powerful imagery. That's what drives the point home, and it's a metaphor. – A.P. Oct 10 '15 at 15:31

I think the word you're looking for is metaphor:

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison.

(Source: American Heritage Dictionary)

I believe the emphasis in the original quote is not on "everyone becoming a vegetarian", but on the glass walls. Which is a metaphor and a vivid image for being able to easily see what happens inside a slaughterhouse.

There is an element of exaggeration here, of course (obviously not everyone would become a vegetarian), but I think it's certainly a stretch to call a hypebole.

The exaggeration of numbers, duration, weight, or similar has to be the clear point of the statement for it to be a hyperbole: I waited for eternity, she weighs a ton, etc.

In the original quote, the main point is the glass wall metaphor of transparency. That's the powerful imagery. That's what drives the point home: glass walls representing something else -- transparency and truth.

When we read the quote, it's not the everyone that captures our imagination, it's the glass walls.

There's a reason why McCartney's documentary is called "Glass Walls" -- http://freefromharm.org/videos/documentaries/meat-org-the-web-site-the-meat-industry-does-not-want-you-to-see/

  • I don’t get the downvotes here so I’ll cancel one of them with my +1. That being said, I really don’t see it as either metaphor OR hyperbole, no more than “If ‘ifs & buts’ were candy & nuts we’d ALL have a Merry Christmas” is a metaphor OR hyperbole. Neither the exaggerated all in the Christmas one (nut allergy sufferers) nor, as you correctly mention, the exaggerated everyone in the OP”s phrase is the point of the phrase. I think they’re both just trying to make points based on false, “if,then” premises, just like:“If meat & dairy were fruit & berry, we’d all be vegetarians.” – Papa Poule Oct 10 '15 at 21:32

I would say, hyperbole is a subclass of the answer the OP is seeking. Hyperbolic exaggeration is one way in which a statement might be not really true where the variance from truth is intentional and for the effect of some emphasis. There can be others. Similes and metaphors kind of fall into the category, for instance.

Debating whether that's the best characterization of the example given seems like threadjacking. The original question seems like "is there a more general term for all of these kinds of constructions?"

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