For those of you who do not know Eddie Izzard, please: join the madness. That’s a very funny clip, you should really go watch it. I can’t find a clip of this section of Dressed to Kill that is relevant to this particular post, so I shall scribe it out for you instead.
Pope Pius XII was meant to go and castigate Hitler for being a [indicates air quotes] “Genocidal Fuckhead . . . ” [Pause. Contemplates. Air quotes again.] “with bunny rabbit ears”. But he didn’t, he wimped out, and since then History has renamed Pius XII as “Pope Gutless Bastard I.”
Now this is funny for several reasons.
- Air quotes do, in fact, look like bunny rabbit ears.
- Anyone who refers to Hitler as a genocidal fuckhead is in my book of Awesome.
- He is still using his air quotes CORRECTLY.
Oh, no, wait. The last one isn’t funny. It’s that THING that’s been PISSING ME OFF.
I’ve been seeing a lot of this around town.
Suki’s Hot Dogs – “100% Beef”
Jimbo’s Electronics – The “Best” in the Business
Schmancy McSchmancy’s Restaurant – Our pork chop is gently braised with a white wine sauce and is “naturally organic.”
Do any of those look sarcastic to you?
They should, and there is a reason they look sarcastic. You do not EMPHASIZE something by giving it quotation marks. You actually de-emphasize it, by indicating that the thing you are bunny-rabbit-earing is not what you really mean. And if the pork chop is not really “naturally organic,” then I want to know what the hell it REALLY is. The quotation marks in that context make it seem all cloaked in mystery. Like it has a secret name.
I cannot tell you my real name, but you can call me “John.” Or “naturally organic.” I suggest John. It’s shorter.
Watch what happens when you read this sentence:
I think Paris Hilton is a “nice person.”
See? See how none of you believed me? DE-emphasis. I’m not saying she’s a super-nice-person by using quotation marks, I’m saying I don’t really think she’s a nice person, but I’m too polite to call her a waste of space.
I’m actually not too polite to say that at all, but I can’t be bothered.
Quotation marks around dialogue are fine. They neither emphasize nor de-emphasize, they just indicate dialogue. It is a great and noble purpose, and for it we salute the quotation marks. Quotation marks allow me to do this: “They say you should never hit a man with a closed fist, but it is on occasion hilarious.”
See? Everyone knew that wasn’t me talking. Why? Because I put it in quotation marks. I wish it was me talking, I really do. I wish I had dialogue that cool. I don’t. Captain Malcolm Reynolds does, the bastard. And by “bastard,” I mean “dreamboat.”
Those are the three things quotation marks are good for. Again, they are:
- Actually QUOTING someone
- Indicating that whatever is in quotations is not REALLY what you want to say.
- Bunny rabbit ears. And by “bunny rabbit ears” I mean, “being sardonic, sarcastic, or otherwise alliteratively snarky.”
That is IT. No exceptions. Actual quote, or one of two humor factors. They are not to be substituted for other emphasizing marks such as italics, boldfacing, or underlining. Do you see quotation marks in Microsoft Word up there with B, I, and U tabs? NO, you don’t, DO YOU? That is because THEY DO DIFFERENT SHIT.
This is beginning to make me angry simply because I write for a living and it makes me unhappy to see someone’s hard-worked copy reduced to an unintentional form of sarcasm against their company. Apparently, there’s a whole BLOG devoted to this, over at The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotations. I did not know this, or I would not have bothered with this post. I would have just pointed you over there and waited until your screams made my point for me.
I give you an example from my own life. Here’s a tagline I’m thinking of for my company. Feedback is appreciated. I promise only to cry a little bit. But here’s how it would it appear on the website:
Good Ink: Saving good people from bad copy.
Fine, right? Say it’s fine. Say it’s awesome. Be nice to me, I have pinkeye. But what if I wrote it like this:
Good Ink: Saving “good people” from “bad copy.”
Confusing, no? Are they not really good people? Is it not really bad copy? Are those things euphemisms for other things? When she says “good people” does she really mean “genocidal fuckhead”?
DO NOT MALIGN YOUR QUOTATION MARKS. THEY ARE THERE FOR GOOD PURPOSES. LIKE SARCASM AND QUOTING EDDIE IZZARD. THEY ARE NOT THERE FOR EMPHASIS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION REGARDING THIS MATTER.
::sigh:: Okay. It’s all okay. I have done my duty. Now I can sleep.
“There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.”
See how you knew it wasn’t me? THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE FOR.
Okay. Seriously. Good night.