Scare quotes, shudder quotes, or sneer quotes are quotation marks placed around a word or phrase to signal that a term is being used in a non-standard, ironic, or otherwise special sense. Scare quotes may express that the author is using someone else's term, similar to preceding a phrase with the expression "so-called"; they may imply skepticism or disagreement, belief that the words are misused, or that the writer intends a meaning opposite to the words enclosed in quotes.
The term "scare quotes" as it refers to the punctuation marks was coined in 1956 by Elizabeth Anscombe in an essay "Aristotle and the Sea Battle" published in Mind. The use of a graphic symbol on an expression to indicate irony or dubiousness goes back much further: Authors of ancient Greece used a mark called a diple periestigmene for that purpose. Beginning in the 1990s the use of scare quotes suddenly became very widespread.[excessive citations] Postmodernist authors in particular have theorized about bracketing punctuation including scare quotes and have found reasons for their frequent use in their writings.
Writers use scare quotes for a variety of reasons. Scare quotes are used to imply an element of doubt or ambiguity regarding the words or ideas within the marks, or even outright contempt. They can indicate that a word or phrase is being purposely misused or that the writer isn't persuaded by what is being said, and they can allow the writer to deny responsibility for what is being reported. In general, they express distance between the writer and the quoted words.
Some "groupies" were following the band.
The scare quotes here might indicate that the word is not one the writer would normally use, or that the writer has an opinion that there is something dubious about the idea of groupies or its application to these people. The exact meaning of the scare quotes is not clear without further context.
The term scare quotes may be confusing because of the word scare. An author may use scare quotes not to convey alarm, but to signal a semantic quibble. Scare quotes may suggest or create a problematization with the words set in quotes.
Some experts encourage writers to avoid using scare quotes because they can distance the writer and confuse the reader.
Editor Greil Marcus, in a talk given at Case Western Reserve University, described scare quotes as "the enemy", adding that they "kill narrative, they kill story-telling ... They are a writer’s assault on his or her own words." Scare quotes have been described as ubiquitous, and the use of them as expressing distrust in truth, reality, facts, reason and objectivity. Political commentator Jonathan Chait wrote in The New Republic that "The scare quote is the perfect device for making an insinuation without proving it, or even necessarily making clear what you're insinuating."
Author Paul Warmington argues that placing the word race, but not any other social construct, in scare quotes has the effect of trivializing the issues of race.
The philosopher David Stove has examined the use of scare quotes in recent philosophy as being able to neutralize or suspend words that suggest cognitive achievement, such as knowledge or discovery.
In spoken conversation, a stand-in for scare quotes is a hand gesture known as air quotes or finger quotes, which mimics the appearance of quotation marks.
A speaker may alternatively say "quote" before and "unquote" after the words that he or she wishes to quote, or say "quote unquote" before or after the quoted words or simply pause before and emphasize the parts in quotes. This spoken method is also used for literal and conventional quotes.
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