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The word “boot” meaning “something extra” is still around – as a technical term in tax law. Two taxpayers can exchange similar kinds of property (for example, real estate) without paying taxes on the appreciated values. (Don’t worry, the Government gets its pound of flesh later.) When the two properties being exchanged are not of the same value, the taxpayer with the property of lesser value throws some cash into the deal. This cash is called “boot”. Having “boot” in a “like-kind exchange” does not ruin the deal for tax purposes, even though cash is not similar in kind to the property being exchanged, but the tax implications are complicated.

Edward M. “Ted” McClure, Public Services Librarian, Phoenix School of Law

Seattle, WA
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That’s interesting. I always thought “to boot” came from the meaning to give a little extra or added push. If a buggy got stuck in the mud back in the horse & buggy days you might give it a little extra oomph by pushing it with your foot (or boot) to get it unstuck. I see people often doing this in the snow with their cars – not that it ever helps. 🙂

Martha Barnette
San Diego, CA
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Ah, thanks for this additional usage, Ted. Makes sense!

And Darrell, yes, that’s exactly what I thought as well for decades — that little extra “oomph.” Oh well, live and learn, eh?

Potsdam, NY
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A shout out to Dale Hobson!. I remember in my youth in Maine that we used the word “boots” as a verb, as in “that boots good,” meaning that something augurs well or predicts good and was similar to “that bodes well.” I never heard “that boots bad” however, only good. In my family we viewed this as archaic, something my maternal grandmother (born in 1873 in E. Barnet Vt.) might have said. Later as an English major in university I came upon the usage in English Romantic prose literature, especially when the author was seeking to sound archaic. I can’t remember which author(s), but I suspect we might find some good references in the O.E.D.

Richard Lunt, Potsdam, N.Y.

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I appreciate this resource! My Dad wrote his “memoirs” about 15 years ago, and I’ve finally decided I should transcribe his handwritten notes since it is difficult to read his handwriting. He used a term “paying some ‘boot'” in his story of an exchange of properties between families, and I wasn’t sure if I was reading his handwriting correctly, let alone what this meant. Since he was an attorney, it makes sense that he’d use this word.


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