We’re All in Scare Quotes

The academics in the crowd should know what scare quotes are. I can’t tell if the general public knows what they are, even as a lot of people use them willy nilly. When I was teaching, I used to yell at my students to stop putting words into quotation marks, unless they were quoting another source directly. These issues matter to historians. We take our quotations seriously.

Scare quotes serve to distance the author from the word or phrase in question. When I am writing about politics, I routinely put the word, “conservative” into scare quotes because the notionally “conservative”…

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