For reasons that are opaque to me, an inordinate number of people without basic grammar skills go into, of all things, sign-making as a profession. The result is the ubiquitous phenomenon of quotation marks used inappropriately for emphasis. I was on a Muni train today and saw a professionally printed sign reading:
You are being videotaped.
In other words, the San Francisco surface rail system is not really warning you – just air-warning you. Pretending to warn you. Mock-warning you. “So-called” warning you. Got to joking with a MacWorld editor about this phenomenon and he turned me onto The Gallery Of “Misused” Quotation Marks, an archive of misused quotation marks in the wild. Hilarious.
Was also amused by the resemblance of this site’s name to my own Archive of Misheard Lyrics.
4 Replies to “So-Called “Quotation” Marks”
Apostrophies seem to suffer a similar fate.
The webmaster has a paragraph-long explanation on the homepage about why he doesn’t cover apostrophe abuse (namely because they’re not very funny), and he points to a site that does chronicle them.
I remember helping someone paint some words on a wall this summer, and they wanted to put quotation marks around it. So they got a 15-minute lesson on why you don’t put quotation marks around an unattributed quote. Leave it to the guy with the journalism degree…
When someone annoys me with too many misused apostrophes, I’ve been known to do a global search-and-replace to insert an apostrophe at every occurrence of the letter and then send it back to them, before the edited-for-real copy. They usually get the message.
I’m not sure if unnecessary quotes or misused apostrophes annoy me more. I don’t know if they don’t teach this stuff anymore, or if people just don’t pay attention.