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I was editing a question on Stack Overflow. Like so many questions it started with an apologetic or diminishing preface:

I am genuinely sorry if this is seen as simple but I am new to coding in general but here goes nothing. I will just post the question here but Ill try and explain it myself as well.

For SO, I can understand. It can be very harsh towards new people and phrasing like the above makes a downvote much more likely as people want to simply see questions, code, error logs ... and answers. But it does make me wonder if there is term, perhaps in sociolinguistics, for this sort of "please don't hurt or reject me" phrasing that's so common.

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This is known in sociolinguistics and pragmatics as a hedge — a way to soften the certainty and definiteness of an utterance by way of indirection.

In your example, an utterance implying "I am a total noob, here's my question." is softened to "If it happens that I am a total noob, then I'm terribly sorry. Here's my question anyway."

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  • I'll take your word for it but [sic] from the Wikipedia article, it doesn't seem like that's quite it. The example I gave doesn't do much more than a straight-up apology unlike the connotation of hedging a position or a bet. – hrokr Mar 22 at 5:42

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