Doing research on the term "scare quotes" -- who coined it, when, where, why (and is it a useful term in 2012 or not? I say not!

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Big question, looking for answers. Is SCARE QUOTES mostly a newsroom and copy desk term? Does the general public, ie, readers, know what the heck it means? who coined it and when? i got references to it online as far back as 1946 now and believe it was coined 1920s. AND i feel the term is wrong and useless now since it is NOT scary at all. I am in Taiwan, doing research. Newspaper reporter and editor. Old man now. Does anybody have AP or NYT style book and what do THEY say use of the term SCARE QUOTES in copy? I am not talking about quotes in quotes, aka scare quotes, but the term itself. It is used daily now in USA and UK and blogs, but does it MEAN anything in terms of the word SCARE being part of the term? Since not all scare quotes are scary. See my rsearch here:


SCARE QUOTES: who coined the term?


Abilio (not verified)

i think so my friend..So how did this state of affairs come to be? Okay with the lowercase f I guess, blame ee cummings for that one, but the period after the the n? Blame Jennifer 8. Lee for that? WTF? WSY, which means What Say You?

Dinahkaye (not verified)
Scare quotes or "air" quotes

This sounds to me like some are confusing this with so-called "air quotes" which is a gesture with index and middle fingers of both hands to indicate skeptical or derided use of a term in a conversation. I've never heard of scare quotes in copy. Except maybe "Nevermore."

jakoblenz (not verified)
scare quotes

(scare quote) the use of quotation marks to indicate that it is not the authors preferred terminology.

quotation marks used to express especially skepticism or derision concerning the use of the enclosed word or phrase. First use, 1960.
--Merriam Webster

It's not about being "scary" (those are scare quotes); the use of scare is ironic, a humorous exaggeration of a simple reference.

danbloom (not verified)
example from HuffPot today

Sweden may not be balmy -- summer probably belongs in scare quotes this far north -- but it is relentlessly sunny and scenic.

the writer does NOT even know what the term means!

danbloom (not verified)
I don't use those stylebooks, but I've never seen such an entry.

''I don't use those stylebooks, but I've never seen such an entry.''

WASH POST editor to me today

danbloom (not verified)
scare quotes

''scare quotes''? Not in NYT stylebook in so many words. Our interpretation is that using single-word quotes ironically is frowned upon unless context is clear.''