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Etymology: Perhaps from dialectal boostering, "bustling, active"
Definition: An adverbial construction used to support a claim or express a viewpoint more assertively and convincingly. Contrast with verbal hedge.
"Hedging and boosting devices," says Mary Talbot, "are modal elements; that is, elements that modify the force of a statement, either weakening it or intensifying" (Language and Gender, 2010).
Examples and Observations:
- "Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love."
(Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)
- "The history of England is emphatically the history of progress."
(Thomas Babington Macaulay)
- "Without doubt, machinery has greatly increased the number of well-to-do idlers."
- "The original poor of the Lower East Side had scuffled without hope, of course, selling their labor for low wages."
(Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir, 1983)
- "Inevitably we look upon society, so kind to you, so harsh to us, as an ill-fitting form that distorts the truth; deforms the mind; fetters the will."
- "Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages."
(H. L. Mencken)
- "Character acting is, of course, one of the four things that the British still do supremely well, the others being soldiering, tailoring, and getting drunk in public."
(Anthony Lane, "Private Wars." The New Yorker, January 5, 2009)
- "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."
(President Dwight Eisenhower)
- "We had to make sins out of what they thought were natural actions… Obviously the only way to make people realize that an action is sinful is to punish them if they commit it. I fined them if they didn't come to church, and I fined them if they danced. I fined them if they were improperly dressed."
(Mr. Davidson, a missionary in Tahiti, in "Rain" by W. Somerset Maugham)
- "People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children."
- Hedging and Boosting Devices
"Hedging and boosting devices are modal elements; that is, elements that modify the force of a statement, either weakening it or intensifying it. We use hedges to avoid stating things categorically, to avoid sounding too dogmatic and sure of ourselves. Examples are sort of, rather, a bit, kind of, about. Tag questions (isn't it, can't we, etc.) are sometimes used as hedges. Boosters are ways of adding friendly enthusiasm, expressing intense interest. Examples are really and so."
(Mary Talbot, Language and Gender, 2nd ed. Polity Press, 2010)
- Benjamin Franklin's Rejection of Boosting
"While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method… I found this method safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it. Therefore I took a delight in it, practicing it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved.
"I continued this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence, never using when I advance anything that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive, or I apprehend a thing to be so or so; it appears to me; or I should think it so or so, or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. And this habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasions to inculcate my opinions and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting; and, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For, if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention."
(Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1793)