Oh man, my train was delayed for a WHOLE hour this morning. No one told us what was going on. It was so cramped I reckon a woman was starting to suffocate. My boss was so angry with me. If I miss critical deadlines again, I’m fired. He’s after me.

Looks a bit like Paul Ryan…

Where did I get this tiny bruise on the side of my face from? Oh, that… Yeah, I got smacked by a vicious thug when I was wandering home late at night at the weekend. I only got away because I’m so fit.

So fit, I ran a marathon in under 3 hours once. Haven’t I told you?

Some people can’t resist exaggerating their goings on. Puffing up their lives with minor exaggerations. Chances are you know someone who, over drinks or dinner, makes a wholly unconvincing and harmless effort to make their daily grind sound that bit more interesting.

It’s no different in politics. Paul Ryan, the US Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, was exposed by Runners World magazine as having run a marathon an hour slower than he’d claimed.

Under three hours, he said. In reality it was more than four.

A mighty achievement, finishing a marathon. Seems a whole lot less mighty when you’re exaggerating the results, though.

Ryan was pulling a ‘Hillary Clinton goes to Bosnia’. In an effort to burnish her foreign affairs experience in a tight presidential primary campaign, the woman who’s now the chief foreign policy officer of the United States claimed to have dodged sniper fire while on a diplomatic mission to Bosnia in the 1990s.

An American TV news station mocked it as “like a scene from Saving Private Ryan”. Saving the Paul Ryans of this world from their own exaggerations is another thing, because exaggeration comes hand in hand with ambition.

Talking about a series of studies of students who embellished their grade point average in a leading American newspaper, a UK psychologist said: “Basically, exaggeration here reflects positive goals for the future, and we have found that those goals tend to be realized.”

In normalspeak, the studies implied that exaggeration might be a symptom of people setting high goals for themselves into the future.

It can be a forgiveable sin. But one that can lead to more serious transgressions.

As was the case with Scott Thompson, the former CEO of Yahoo. Shortly after taking the role, he had to resign after allegations he had invented having completed a computer science degree.

And then there’s the case of journalist Jonah Lehrer, who invented quotes from Bob Dylan to make an otherwise fascinating argument about creativity in his book, Imagine.

At least Lehrer had the medium right. Books are the right place for fiction.

As for me? Wasn’t late this morning. Train was on time. Couldn’t run a marathon to save my life. I walked into a fake candle cruise missile someone chucked across the room at a bar on Saturday and copped a tiny scratch on the side of my face. Suspecting Bosnian snipers at this point.

Most commented

29 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • andye says:

      02:29pm | 04/09/12

      I think a few people who comment on The Punch might know the odd thing about exaggeration.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:33pm | 04/09/12

      +1000

    • M says:

      03:12pm | 04/09/12

      +1*100

    • AFR says:

      03:33pm | 04/09/12

      I’m 110% in support of you… no, wait 200%....

    • St. Michael says:

      02:31pm | 04/09/12

      If you’re going to start skewering potential ocupants of the top job in the US political system, perhaps we should start with the present occupier?

      As in, the guy who’s written two autobiographies (Dreams from My Father, The Audacity of Hope) without actually doing anything notable and who himself engaged in some exaggeration about his father and his father’s influence on his life in particular?

    • Tim says:

      02:40pm | 04/09/12

      Without doing anything notable?

      Pfft, how many other Indonesian Muslims have been President?

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      02:49pm | 04/09/12

      Or we could go to the predecessor of the current incumbent who failed at running an oil company, failed in the Alabama Air National Guard and completely screwed up running a superpower that is still recovering from his mistakes…....

    • Phil says:

      03:18pm | 04/09/12

      Where’s the proof that he’s a Muslim?

    • Darin Thorpe says:

      03:22pm | 04/09/12

      Oh no. The crazies are at it again….

    • St. Michael says:

      03:31pm | 04/09/12

      Since when is being the President of the United States a notable achievement?

      Grease a lot of palms, kiss a lot of ass, have no vision, be vaguely appealing to everyone, be able to read teleprompters convincingly and satisfy no one: that’s the notable achievements of high political office.

    • SimpleSimon says:

      03:52pm | 04/09/12

      I’m quite curious about this; how do you know that BO exaggerated the influence that his father had on him? Seems like a fairly wild and unprovable accusation. I’m assuming there’s something to back it up with, which I’d be interested to see.

    • null says:

      04:01pm | 04/09/12

      Tim, that reply is one of the best I’ve ever read

    • Tim says:

      04:24pm | 04/09/12

      St Michael,
      well there’s only been 44 of them, and only one of them has been a Muslim so I think that’s notable. Hell there’s even been two Alien presidents so he’s even rarer than that.

    • year of the dragon says:

      04:33pm | 04/09/12

      Tim says:02:40pm | 04/09/12

      “Pfft, how many other Indonesian Muslims have been President?”

      LOL. Someone had to get it.

    • TimB says:

      04:44pm | 04/09/12

      lol Tim, I did a double take when I saw your comment. Then I smacked my foerhead and laughed.

      Nice work.

    • Kika says:

      02:34pm | 04/09/12

      I was raised on exaggeration - my Dad and my Uncle are the best story tellers. They will turn a mundane story into something amazing. When you got those two together, or if one of them tells the other a story it will grow bigger before you hear it you can be assured.  They don’t lie… they just exaggerate the truth.

    • DM says:

      02:37pm | 04/09/12

      I believe you :3

    • Michael S says:

      02:48pm | 04/09/12

      I’ve told you a million times - do not exaggerate.

    • Rose says:

      02:55pm | 04/09/12

      Who cares? As long as the exaggeration doesn’t demean or otherwise hurt some one else there’s no harm done. Everyone knows people who do it and they are often referred to by names such as Mr/Mrs 10%. Often it makes an otherwise boring tale just that little bit more interesting and we all usually know when someone has stretched the truth a bit.

    • the cynic says:

      03:24pm | 04/09/12

      Tim says @2.40pm says ....Without doing anything notable?
      Pfft, how many other Indonesian Muslims have been President?
      Obama is not Muslum nor Indonesian he has a Kenyan father and an American white mother or did I miss something in your possible attempt at sarcasm. He lived in Indonesia for a time so taking your view on things that should make me an Australian , New Guinean, Chinese, Arab, German with no specific religion non president, having lived in these places all my life.

    • Goffy says:

      03:25pm | 04/09/12

      This is the best article on the internet.

    • Daniel Piotrowski

      Daniel Piotrowski says:

      04:59pm | 04/09/12

      Definitely not exaggerating wink

    • Meh says:

      03:25pm | 04/09/12

      I was speed reading this article, but the friction heat caused the wheel to come off my mouse. I know you wouldn’t believe it possible for a short article, but I swear every letter is true.

    • Lily says:

      03:27pm | 04/09/12

      I grew up thinking I was descended from Scottish spice merchants (yeah, I know…) who brought a private fleet and colonised the mid-coast of NSW, thanks to the story-telling of a particularly colourful Uncle.

      Last year I went to Scotland and made it up to our ‘clan’ museum to discover our last descendent in Scotland had been a stonemason who fled the bleakest corner of the west coast to escape starving to death.

      I kind of preferred the first version.

    • iansand says:

      03:55pm | 04/09/12

      I had a similar experience.  There was a pirate active a few generations ago in the Pacific with the same name as my mother’s maiden name.  We were all quite chuffed to be descended from a pirate.

      Then some fool of a second cousin decided to do some research…

    • Chris says:

      04:15pm | 04/09/12

      I worked with a guy in the Army who had the most amazing life experiences. If you added it up he had crammed 52 years into his physical 26.
      I raised this was a mutual friend who summed it up well- 95% of what XXXX says he did is true, except that it happened to other people.

    • Inky says:

      04:34pm | 04/09/12

      Whereas I’ve never exagerated about anything.

    • nihonin says:

      05:46pm | 04/09/12

      I’ve been told a million times, not to exaggerate.

    • sunny says:

      07:00pm | 04/09/12

      If you ever asked Bill Clinton his golf score you would have thought he was a very good golfer - until of course you talked to someone who had actually played a round with him and found out he doesn’t count his mulligans ..and there are a LOT of mulligans

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62g-ERCezP8

 

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