Hyperbole and Autism

An Intense World

One of the linguistic areas autistic people have particular difficulty with is metaphors. Sometimes that leads one to being fascinated by metaphors—I am thinking here of Nietzsche and of myself—but even in that fascination, even as that fascination helps one become familiar with metaphors and how they work, the fact is that when I hear a metaphor, I immediately make the literalist association, before jumping to the metaphorical meaning.

Hyperbole—that is, overstating things—is a kind of metaphor. For the literalist mind, hyperbole is itself difficult. You are more likely to say things as you literally see them rather than providing sufficient hyperbole to be polite. And heaven help an autistic trying to be romantic! That will require careful planning to figure out what hyperbolic statement to say before it’s said, meaning spontaneous romantic sentiments aren’t likely.

Our daughter, Melina, has a hyperbolic statement she uses all the time: “You’re the…

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