scare quote

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Air quotes are analogous to scare quotes in print.


Coined in 1956 by G. E. M. Anscombe in the essay “Aristotle and the Sea Battle”.

This etymology is incomplete. You can help Wiktionary by elaborating on the origins of this term.


scare quote (plural scare quotes)

  1. (chiefly in the plural) A quotation mark deliberately used to provoke a reaction or to indicate that the author does not approve of the term, rather than to identify a direct quotation. [from 1956]
    Synonyms: shudder quote, sneer quotes
    • 2001 January 1, “The Retreat From Inquiry and Knowledge in Special Education.”, in Journal of Special Education:
      One other important figure in postmodern thought is Richard Rorty, who might be characterized as master of the scare quote
    • 2004, P Timms, What's Wrong with Contemporary Art?:
      He is inordinately fond of the scare quote, a sign that he is not really sure of what he's talking about.
    • 2006 September 6, “Where Hairsplitting Can Become High Drama”, in New York Sun:
      An incidental pleasure is his witty mastery of the scare quote and the square bracket.
    • 2008, D Jeske, “Friendship and the grounds of reasons”, in
      I put the relevant pronouns in scare quote because Bundy’s interviewers succeeded in getting Bundy to talk about his crimes only by allowing him to describe them in the third person

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