*also called meiosis
What is understatement?
Understatement is using words to deliberately make something sound smaller, slower, less significant (less important) etc. than it really is.
Understatement can be used as a way of joking, showing a lack of enthusiasm, avoiding talking about something in too much detail (especially if that thing may hurt someone’s feelings), and being modest. It is often associated with the ‘English gentleman’ stereotype.
Understatement can exist as a phrase, verb, or a single noun.
- Using a phrase
|He might have a penny or two||He has a lot of money|
|I know a thing or two||I know a lot about this|
|I might of had a sip or two||I have been drinking quite a bit, and am probably drunk|
2. Using a verb
|It stings||It really hurts|
|I try||I know I do a lot of work, but am being modest|
3. Well-known examples
|The Pond||The Atlantic Ocean|
*As used by Brits and Americans when describing travel or friendship between the two – ‘our friends across the pond’; ‘he now lives across the pond’.
|The Troubles||The decades of violence in Northern Ireland|
|The Recent Unpleasantness||The American Civil War|
|It’s just a flesh wound||A truly awful injury|
*This was a joke in Monty Python and The Holy Grail involving a knight who had all his arms and legs cut off in a fight)