Friday, August 10, 2012

An Open Letter to Dan Bloom on Why Your Mischievous Little "Scare Quotes" Crusade is Bound to Fail (but good on ya, mate, for trying to raise awareness about this "epidemic")

Dear Mr Bloom,

You have been all over the internet with your scare quotes blasts, and while it is an interesting topic for discussion, not only for linguists but for grammarians and oped page editors too, it's not going to go anywhere and you're bound to fail. Here's why:

1. Of course, we don't know who coined the term or when or where or why. Not even the OED people know, and Wikipedia sheds no light on this too. So face it, we will never know who coined the term. Game over there.

2. Sure, it was used in print as far back as 1946 in a book by Carey McWilliams, but so what? Even Peter Plagens used the term in a 1993 Newsweek story about the artist Roy Lichenstein. So what? Scare quotes as a term and as a writing tool is now so embedded in our culture, both in the USA and in the UK, that it is now impossible to stop it -- or them! The epidemic of scare quotes over-use is really happening, yes, but again, despite Mollie Ziegler Hemingway's protests at GetReligion, who cares? Again, game over, Bloom, scare quotes are here to stay, both as a term name and as a writing tool. So they are mis-used? Get used it. Welcome to the internet age.

3. I will tell you why they are called SCARE quotes. The words that are so marked with quotation marks are SCARY to the writer of the article, not necessarily to the reader. So the term was coined by academics long ago, perhaps in 1920 or even in the 1880s, to signal to the reader that the writer finds that word or that
phrase as used by someone else...SCARY. So scare quotes as a term and as a writing tool is a writer-friendly term and was never meant to be reader-friendly. Readers can go fuck themselves, Bloom. It's never been about the reader. You think academics and professors and PHD students give a rat's fuck about the reader? No way, dude. They are only in it for themselves. That's their game. Get over it.

4. So, scare quotes guy, game over. For all your interesting posts and comments clogging up the internet and Twitter now, not to mention Facebook and assorts blogs, scare quotes are here to stay, big time, the mother of all quotation marks, and even if "comedian" Jon Stewart calls them "dick quotes," and some scrotum-cum-punter on YouTube calls them "scrotation quotes" (yuck yuck), scare quotes are now so much part of UK and USA culture that no protest, however well mounted, will ever see the light of day. So crawl back into your cave and find something better to sleuth about. Scare quotes? Game over. Everyone uses them and the flood tide can never be stopped now. CapitalNewYork even uses the term in headlines now, for God's sake! You know it's over when that happens.

Cheers, mate, and good on ya  for trying to shed some light on all this, but a useless, quixtic quest...

Sincerely,

''You Know Who'' (scare quotes intended)

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