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Hyperbole

IN an age of mostly fatuous superlatives, you do wonder up which grammatical cul-de-sac the English language might next meander.

The quest for ever greater emphasis hobbles not merely sports commentators of all stripes - Gary Lineker's weekly efforts to big up the fare on Match Of The Day, for example, irrespective of the drama within, are routinely toothless - but also professional scribes (at least in the salaried sense).

Those of us who write or edit words on a daily basis face the perpetual challenge of holding the reader's attention, and too often we fall into the commonest trap of all - lauding the subjects of stories as the most this, the greatest that, even if the facts suggest otherwise. The same goes for broadcast and digital news. My pet hates are "very", "really" and "truly", but other culprits are legion.

Leaving aside the vulgar matter of veracity, I'd contend that the well of vocabulary available to everyone from John Motson to a junior reporter on the Pabbay Sentinel has long since run dry and we must innovate immediately, lest we slide further into the ocean of cliches currently lapping our thighs. Prefixing each adjective with "mega", "uber" and "ultra" in a clumsy attempt to maintain interest will not suffice. And CAPITALISING THE POINTS WE WISH TO ACCENTUATE is not an option. Yet.

But where to look for grammatical nourishment? The argot of motoring might provide some sustenance: "Nelson Mandela was the twin-turbo grand tourer of political leaders" (true); "Nigella's performance under cross-examination was sheer wronged-wife GTI"; "Ed Miliband offers enviable MPG but few thrills and limited vision due to the Hofmeister kink in his personality". All a shade Alan Partridge, but you'd be hooked - and that's the point.

The culinary arts could offer a nibble or two, though retaining gravitas - and meaning - might be an obstacle: "The Chancellor's Autumn Statement served up a budgetary bhoona with a pensions paratha and road-tax raita"; "That was Double Goalkeeper XL with smoky bacon from the 6ft 7in Fraser Forster"; "The future of shipbuilding on the Clyde is a Wicked Variety Bucket of uncertainty - fresh from the fryer". If nothing else, it would spark a chuckle instead of a jaded sigh.

Ultimately, though, perhaps we should junk the superlatives altogether and allow the facts to speak for themselves. Revolutionary, I know, but it might just work.

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Local government

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