In soccer, players often exaggerate their injuries to make their opponent look more guilty.

I've also seen this on TV shows with a hostile police officer, saying things like "Whoa whoa whoa, calm down, sir." after the person with whom they are speaking says something innocent.

The idea is exaggerating a response to make it seem like there was aggression that would have merited such a response.

Is there a succint term or phrase for that?

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12 Answers 12


of some idioms, I like: blown out of proportion. TFD

Exaggerated or magnified beyond the true scale or truth of the matter.

As in:

In soccer, players often blow out of proportion their injuries to make their opponent look more guilty.

In the case of the police in particular, as you referenced, to embellish comes to mind: Vocabulary.com

That's what can happen when you embellish by adding too many false or exaggerated details to a story.

As in:

"Whoa whoa ... whoa! Calm down, sir." after the person with whom they are speaking says something innocent.

Here the officer is embellishing his response and his authority to the 'words' of a suspect/prep/innocent person.



Meaning 3 seems to fit.

melodrama (ˈmɛləˌdrɑːmə) n

  1. (Film) a play, film, etc, characterized by extravagant action and emotion
  2. (Theatre) (formerly) a romantic drama characterized by sensational incident, music, and song
  3. overdramatic emotion or behaviour
  4. (Theatre) a poem or part of a play or opera spoken to a musical accompaniment

As an idiom, those people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

From Wikipedia:

Making a mountain out of a molehill is an idiom referring to over-reactive, histrionic behaviour where a person makes too much of a minor issue. It seems to have come into existence in the 16th century.

The idiom is a metaphor for the common behaviour of responding disproportionately to something - usually an adverse circumstance. One who "makes a mountain out of a molehill" is said to be greatly exaggerating the severity of the situation. In cognitive psychology, this form of distortion is called magnification or overreacting. The phrase itself is so common that a study by psychologists found that with respect to familiarity and image value, it ranks high among the 203 common sayings they tested.

Similar idioms include 'Much ado about nothing' and 'Making a song and dance about nothing'.


I think you can use ther term overreaction:


to react in an extreme, especially an angry or frightened, way:

  • Try not to overreact to criticism.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • 5
    Overreactions aren’t typically feigned, more that they’re seen by third parties as unwarranted given the stimulus, but nevertheless are genuinely felt by the reactor, no?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 15:55
  • 5
    @DanBron I'd say an overreaction can be either feigned or involuntary so it's fine to use but not entirely unambiguous. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 8:30

I've often seen this described as "hamming up an injury", which is to say they are overacting, rather than overreacting. The distinction there captures the element of deceit that I think you're going for.


I think you've already found exactly the word you need:


a. The action of exaggerating or magnifying unduly in words or representation.

In soccer specifically, I've seen this called diving or "taking a dive." From Wikipedia:

In [soccer], diving is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed. Dives are often used to exaggerate the amount of contact present in a challenge.


Could also be simulating

to make a pretense of; feign:

Or drama queen.

a person who habitually responds to situations in a melodramatic way.


We also use the phrase 'hamming it up', which means 'to over-act' and comes from a trait common amongst younger actors to overdo the drama a bit when playing the role of Hamlet in Shakespeare's eponymous play.


In the case of the soccer player I might suggest the word 'baiting'. Perhaps this could describe the Police Officer too however, there is the element of controlling the situation when a Police Officer does this - they are establishing a power dynamic; whereas the soccer player is just hoping for a positive outcome.

The word 'juking' also comes to mind.

  • Can you add some discussion of why the word 'juking' comes to mind?
    – Jeremy
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 13:09
  • 'Juke' (and 'jook') mean to zig-zag, as in fake baiting someone away so that you can sneak through.
    – AmI
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 17:29
  • As both examples involve luring away from the truth (the policeman lures himself away from the truth so that he can justify aggression), 'Juking' might be a good word (if it was well-known).
    – AmI
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 17:39

While the question is about exaggerating a response, the examples given seem to be more about active deception (particularly in the police officer example). A few words could help explain:


verb (used with object) 1.to represent fictitiously; put on an appearance of: to feign sickness.

2.to invent fictitiously or deceptively, as a story or an excuse.

For example,

The soccer player was feigning his injuries.


verb (used without object), dis·sim·u·lat·ed, dis·sim·u·lat·ing. 2.to conceal one's true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically.

For example,

"Woah woah woah, calm down", the police officer responded, dissimulating.

See also dissemble.

Additionally, a charade, can often involve using exaggerated actions or appearances for the purpose of deception.

  1. a blatant pretense or deception, especially something so full of pretense as to be a travesty.

Don't make a tsimmes/tzimmes (over/about it)

Colloquial (U.S. and in Jewish usage). A fuss; chiefly in to make a tsimmes (over, about, etc.). Also less commonly: a muddled or confused affair; a mess.

1945 Tzimmes in the vernacular has come to mean ‘making a fuss’ over anything, in a purely favorable and friendly way. To ‘make a Tzimmes’ over anyone or anything is to specially honor the person, place, thing or occasion. Jewish Post (Indianapolis) 21 September

1946 Why is he making a big tsimmis out of a grunt?
D. Runyon, Short Takes 199

1993 I recalled my decision in the ninth grade to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance... What a tsimmes (‘upset’) that caused.
R.R. Linden, Making Stories, making Selves iii. 32

2014 Why, then, has this chapter made such a big tzimmes about macros, if you aren't encouraged to use them? S. St. Laurent & J. D. Eisenberg, Introducing Elixir xiii. 173

tzimmes (n.)

A stew of sweetened vegetables or vegetables and fruit, sometimes with meat. [OED]

A tzimmes can be an elaborate stew or casserole that takes time and fussing over.

"No, no, Louis," Sasha said, trying to calm him.
"Don't make such a tzimmes."
"What the hell is that?"
"A fuss. ..."
Margaret Truman; Murder at Union Station (2005)

"Then why the big tzimmes over a little money? Take. Look, if it would make you feel more at home, if you don't want to be indebted—I could leave it around and you could break into my apartment. Huh, bandit?
D. Keith Mano; Take Five (1998)



Gaslighting. One of the tactics is "manipulation of reality" to set the other person off-balance. There is usually a hidden motive/agenda. In the case of the policeman, if the other person again tries to assert that his comment was not disrespectful, the officer would increase the accusation of belligerence. The officer may be hoping that he can goad the person into actually committing an arrestable offense for a physical take-down.

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