A female relative speaks in a way in which I'm sure there exists a terminology for that particular mannerism. All follow a similar format, with typical examples below


"That's not the way I would do it, but that's just me"

"I'm not telling you what to do, but the other way is faster "

"I didn't say anything, as it's none of my business, but she should control her kids better"

"That food was terrible, but that's just my opinion"

"He shouldn't have done that, but what do I know?"


1 Answer 1


In linguistics, expressions such as

but that’s just me
I'm not telling you what to do, but…
I didn't say anything, as it’s none of my business, but…
but that's just my opinion
but what do I know?

are called hedges, in your examples following a reversible pattern of

Hedge, but assertion
Assertion, but hedge

This type of device lives on the force of the contrastive conjunction.

Hedges are a kind of euphemism employed to soften the impact of an utterance the speaker feels might be too confrontational, demanding, or impolite, that is, socially transgressive in some way.

Australian business consultant Corrine Armour crafts a paragraph to illustrate:

Stuffing your communication with hedging words making no contribution to your message is a linguistic crime that decreases your ability to influence.

Allow me to demonstrate: ‘Basically, what I’d like to do is to tell you all about hedging. I guess I think it’s really important. The point is, hedging can reduce the authority of your words, and basically I feel it reduces your power. In my opinion you shouldn’t really let hedging into your conversation, because I just think your subconscious mind hears it too and the point is you will feel less confident.’

If you think the first example is exaggerated I invite you to listen to people around you, and possibly yourself.

Since Robin Lakoff’s 1973 monograph Language and Woman’s Place, there has been a spirited discussion whether women speakers hedge more than men, and if so, why they do and under what circumstances.

  • I don't think hedging is the precise description. The OP's aunt isn't beating around the bush, the phrases appear to be a form of passive aggressiveness, feigning neutrality when instead she's saying her opinion or solution is the correct course to take
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 18, 2019 at 15:44
  • They're certainly hedges, but I'm a little concerned about (what I believe is!) your coining of the string 'hedge clause' when the fixed expression (brother to 'sanity clause') already exists, with a precise meaning, in the business domain (and is now more idiomatic generally). Unless you can show that 'hedge clause' is a FE or above (compound noun) in linguistics, I think it needs scare quotes for a non-standard usage. Jul 18, 2019 at 15:51
  • hedge sound, word, phrase, clause etc. No beef here. An entire speech (as in "I give a speech) can be a hedge. AKA avoidance mechanisms.
    – Lambie
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:37
  • @EdwinAshworth: hedge clause like noun clause. I'm unfamiliar with the business jargon, but I doubt anyone is going to think I'm suddenly talking high finance.
    – KarlG
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:43
  • But someone is probably going to think 'hedge clause' is an accepted term in linguistics, use it in an essay, and get taken to task on this by a tutor. We should strive for accuracy in answers, make things clear. Scare quotes for DIY terminology. Jul 19, 2019 at 13:43

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