Ryan Lochte’s Vocabulary Lesson for All of Us

“I over-exaggerated.” It was impossible to miss the world’s derision for Ryan Lochte’s poor word choice. The Olympian was trying to explain his lies about how he found himself at the wrong end of a gun after a night of partying in Brazil. Indeed, “over-“ is a prefix meaning excessive or excessively. But there is no such word as “over-exaggerate.” And yet, many words with this prefix seem as silly as Lochte’s grammar misstep. “Over-smooth” is an adjective, but it’s hard to imagine how a surface could be more smooth than just “smooth.” You could correctly call the witness who shoots off his mouth “over-talkative”, but doesn’t “talkative” make the point?

Originally published September 15, 2016
Last updated May 11, 2020
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