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Imagine a husband and wife are watching TV. Suddenly the TV shows an advertisement which is going to introduce a sport device which can help you reduce your weight.

Wife says: Oh, how is it possible. Sounds great. Let's text them to send us one of that devices.

Husband (who disagrees) says: These are all............advertisements, don’t believe all the hype.

Which one of the following choices can be used in the self-made sentence above in a manner that it could sound natural?

a) exaggerated

b) melodramatic

For me, both are the same here.

  • For a melodramatic response, I imagine the husband would've possibly thrown a tantrum and possibly the remote as well at his wife. See also, spousal abuse. – Teacher KSHuang Dec 23 '16 at 16:38
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The challenge with dictionary definitions is that they don't always give a feel for appropriate nuance or context. Sometimes, though, the word itself can give you useful information.

Melodrama is a good example, as it contains the word "drama".

Drama: a piece of writing that tells a story and is performed on a stage, a play, movie, television show, or radio show that is about a serious subject and is not meant to make the audience laugh (as compared to "comedy")

So, (among other definitions) a drama is an artificial experience, like a movie or a TV show, written to create an emotional effect. Something that is melodramatic does this in an exaggerated or overly stylized way. The director may have meant for the exaggeration to increase the emotional effect, but actually it just makes the drama look silly and even more artificial.

In the situation you describe there is no drama -- no movie or TV show, no emotional setup -- so you wouldn't ordinarily call it melodramatic.

Now, it is possible for someone to act melodramatic (overly emotional) but this implies that they are acting as if they are in a bad movie. They are exaggerating their actions for emotional effect.

So, again, in the situation you describe: while there is an exaggerated claim, there is no drama.

Examples of shows that are frequently melodramatic: movies in which one of the characters is sick or dying, movies about significant real-world tragic events, and daytime "soap operas".

  • Andrew, thank you for the inforative explanation, but could you possibly let me know if there is always an intention in a "melodramatic action" to over-emotionalize the action in question? – A-friend Dec 23 '16 at 15:57
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    No, not always. Someone can be unintentionally melodramatic, it's more how it's perceived than how it's intended. – Andrew Dec 23 '16 at 17:43
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    @A-friend I should add that calling something a "melodrama" is usually meant as an insult. A director might create a movie he thinks is deep and moving, but which a critic might think more "hackneyed" and "maudlin", and so pan it as being "melodramatic". – Andrew Dec 24 '16 at 5:58
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Exaggerated is the better of these words to use in the husband's sentence.

Melodramatic is usually used to refer to an exaggerated dramatic action. For example, if someone slams the door for effect, this could be considered melodramatic.

Exaggerated is the preferable word when referring to claims that are beyond normal proportion. In the case of an advertisement such as this one, the claims are therefore likely to be described as exaggerated. That said, the advertisement may include actors who exhibit melodramatic behaviour.

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I will first agree with Andrew that melodramatic is definitely the wrong word to use there; I think of melodrama as "trying to elicit a much greater sense of concern than the situation calls for", like a child who starts wailing about the possibility of becoming an amputee when they suffer a paper cut. (Concern is defined as "an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension" (per M-W, sense 1b).)

Since "exaggerated" has no such limitation, it is the much better choice of the two.

However, I would like to propose a few other alternatives that I think would fit still better.

Inflated: elaborated or heightened by artificial or empty means (m-w.com)

Overblown: inflated (also m-w.com) (often used when referring to claims of capability such as those used in advertising)

  • "Bullshit" is also perfectly acceptable, if you don't mind expletives. – Andrew Dec 23 '16 at 17:46
  • Leaving the adjective out (i.e. "These are all advertisements...") would be acceptable as well. No-one realistically thinks that advertisements aren't exaggerating. And if they do, I've got a bridge for sale. – Roger Lipscombe Dec 23 '16 at 18:13

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