The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Quotation Marks

The rules of punctuation seem arbitrary. How can they not, when an apostrophe looks like nothing in this world so much as a comma that can't keep its feet on the ground? Or when, by simply placing next to that wafting comma its twin, one creates (of all things) a quotation mark? ~Richard Lederer and John Shore, Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation, 2005

Next to the semi-colon, quotation marks seem to be the chief butts of reformatory ardor. The fact that quotes within quotes are often confusing, and unhinge the minds of thousands of poor copy-readers every year, has fanned these flames. Also, there is frequent complaint that the marks themselves, as they stand, are unsightly, with demands for something better. ~H. L. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement II: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 1948

I like commas. I detest semi-colons — I don't think they belong in a story. And I gave up quotation marks long ago. I found I didn't need them, they were fly-specks on the page. If you're doing it right, the reader will know who's talking. ~E. L. Doctorow (1931–2015), "EL Doctorow: ‘I don’t have a style, but the books do’: The author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel and Homer and Langley talks to Sarah Crown," The Guardian, 2010

An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning... A colon, says Karl Kraus, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping moustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks [« »] lick their lips... Every text, even the most densely woven, cites them of its own accord — friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language. ~Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), "Punctuation Marks," Notes to Literature, Volume One, 1958, translated from German by Shierry Weber Nicholsen, 1991  [a.k.a. Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund —tg]

In using phrases not our own—
Words spoken by some other one—
We quote their words you know.
Thus, when we quote from Solomon
“A father should chastise his son,”
These marks are put to show.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Quotation or Inverted Comma," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854

Quotation marks cover a multitude of plagiarists. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Wouldn't the sentence "I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish-and-Chips sign" have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips? ~Martin Gardner

Quotes about the Use & Misuse of Quotation Marks

There's a fine line between funny and annoying — and it's exactly the width of a quotation mark. But it's not the quotation mark that deserves our wrath. It's our bad habits... ~Martha Brockenbrough, "Do You Abuse Quotation Marks?," 2009

Sometimes... quotation marks are an absolute crime against humanity. ~Richard Lederer and John Shore, Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation, 2005

"Quotation marks quotato marks! Bah!" —James Joyce  ~Nathan "N. R." Gaddis, "What important people are saying about Richard Ellmann's biography of James Joyce," 2014  [In Gaddis' review of the 1983 revision of Ellmann's 1959 book.  Joyce had insisted on using dashes rather than quotation marks. –tg]

The point of all this is that quotation marks stick like cockleburrs in the public mind, especially when they are attached to catchy words. So it is well to count 10 before using. ~Marvin Creager, "You Can't Count on Famous Words," 1949

Your participle’s danglin’
But I don’t want your drama
If you really wanna
Leave out that Oxford comma
Just keep in mind
That be, see, are, you
Are words, not letters...
And listen up when I tell you this
I hope you never use quotation marks for emphasis...
~© "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes," Mandatory Fun, 2014, ♫

I know the fashion of our time affects disdain of borrowing. But who is rich enough to refuse, or plead honorably for his exclusiveness? Somehow the printer happens to forget his quotation marks, and the credit of originality goes to the writer none the less. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Quotation," Table-Talk, 1877

Quotes about Air Quotes

Another reason for putting rabbit ears on a word is the growing popularity of skepticism: Those whose illusion is disillusionment revel in the use of the device that expresses disbelief and disavowal with four inverted commas, and trendy critics can even put quotation signs around a spoken word by wiggling two fingers of each hand. ~William Safire, On Language, 1980

"Air quotes" are:
     A.  Nifty
     B.  Okay if used sparingly
     C.  Pathological
~Jon Winokur, The Big Book of Irony, 2007  [Air quotes are "gestural irony," per Winokur. –tg]

Bob and Betty... raise the middle and forefingers of both hands, momentarily forming twitching bunny ears — air quotes, the quintessential contemporary gesture that says, We're not serious... This is the era of the permanent smirk, the knowing chuckle, of jokey ambivalence as a way of life. This is the Irony Epidemic. ~Paul Rudnick & Kurt Andersen, "The Irony Epidemic," in Spy, 1989

Art in the age of air quotes requires a fellow smirker, someone else smart enough to get it. Irony is a group sport. ~Paul Rudnick & Kurt Andersen, "The Irony Epidemic," in Spy, 1989

We make quote fingers. Please, for the love of your knuckles, stop it. If you can't, at least know that you're supposed to say "quote, unquote," not "quote, end quote." (And if you must do this overseas, be aware of the local customs. In Germany, one hand goes up and the other goes down, mimicking the direction of the printed quotation marks they use. In France, they make sideways v's to look like the guillemets they use to open and close quotations.) ~Martha Brockenbrough, "Do You Abuse Quotation Marks?," 2009

Cox jiggled his fingers like quotation marks. ~Norman C. Chastain, After the Game, 2005

Neville had both hands in the air, fingers suspended in air quotes. Air quotes are something I've seen adults do when they're trying to "relate." They use "teen speak," but they always act uncomfortably when they use it because they know damn well their youth is "spent." And maybe they don't like how they spent it, so every time they see a "young person" they get crabby and offended or smarmy and patronizing. ~Simmone Howell, Everything Beautiful, 2008

Not using it right, Joe.  ~Ross to Joey, about his incorrect use of air quotes, Friends, "The One Where Emma Cries," 2002, written by Dana Klein Borkow

Newsflash:  air quotes are out.  ~Mia King, Good Things, 2006

Quotes about “Scare Quotes”

scare quotes, a.k.a. shudder quotes, sneer quotes, so-called quotes, irony quotes, sarcasm quotes, or written air quotes

Scare quotes are the visual marker of sarcasm. ~Joseph Harris, Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts, 2006

If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better. ~William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1959

A forest of scare quotes can quickly become a distraction. ~Simon Mayers, Chesterton's Jews, 2013

The use of quotation marks to say "their word, not mine" is growing... Disdain now has its own punctuation. One reason is that quotation marks are being used more often to call attention to a special meaning: Henry L. Trewhitt of The Baltimore Sun calls these "cop-out quotation marks" — when a writer uses a bit of jargon or a colloquialism and encloses it in quotes to show he really knows better. Another reason for putting rabbit ears on a word is the growing popularity of skepticism: Those whose illusion is disillusionment revel in the use of the device that expresses disbelief and disavowal with four inverted commas, and trendy critics can even put quotation signs around a spoken word by wiggling two fingers of each hand. ~William Safire, On Language, 1980

The use of scare quotes is an evasive way of using a bit of language while at the same time distancing yourself from it, leaving your reader wondering whether you quite stand by what you say. ~Gary Kemp, What Is This Thing Called Philosophy of Language?, 2011

This is yet another way detonation may disrupt the steadiness of person and narrative. The reader must continually make adjustments of discourse type in the midst of parsing difficult sentences, treading the minefield of scare-quotes, italics, parentheses containing quotations we know not from where, paradoxes, and allusions. A minimal implied author requires a maximal implied reader. ~Donald Wesling and Tadeusz Sławek, Literary Voice: The Calling of Jonah, 1995

Quotes about Quotation Marks, Metaphorically Speaking

quotation marks used in ways other than literal punctuation

We have a queen-size bed and the dog sleeps in the middle. John and I are sort of these little quotation marks on either corner. ~Rachael Ray, in PEOPLE Pets, 2011

It is an old error of man to forget to put quotation marks where he borrows from a woman's brain! ~Anna Garlin Spencer, Woman's Share in Social Culture, 1912

Oh, Cedilla! I hyphenventilate as I kiss ur ellipsis! I crave your caron & long to be bracketed by ur guillemets  ~Eric Jones, @dericjones, tweet, 2010

It would not be sufficient to say that in his love-making with Ada he discovered the pang, the ogon’,  the agony of supreme "reality." Reality, better say, lost the quotes it wore like claws — in a world where independent and original minds must cling to things or pull things apart in order to ward off madness or death (which is the master madness). ~Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), Ada, 1969

There is no way you can use the word "reality" without quotation marks around it. ~Joseph Campbell, unverified

His face too was comical, his eyebrows fighting each other like quotation marks, his ears pink as a pig's. ~Jenny Colgan, The Boy I Loved Before, 2004

In its final form of the name change from Herbert Lovel to William Lovell, the double l at the end of the name echoes the double l within the first name. They stand like quotation marks surrounding part of the name, and what they quote is not just an English word but an English sentence: Will i am Love ll. The name of Tieck's character thus pronounces his identity directly: I am love. The idea of quotation marks around this "sentence" is not so far-fetched either, since using an expressive name to announce its character's identity is itself a kind of literary citation. ~Brian Tucker, "Wordplay and Identity in Tieck's Early Prose," Reading Riddles: Rhetorics of Obscurity from Romanticism to Freud, 2011

My life's entwined by curly quote marks
Clever phrases and profound remarks...
~Terri Guillemets, quotation anthologist, "Bookended," 2001

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published 2010 Sep 24
revised 2012, 2014, 2017
last saved 2022 Aug 20