Did quotation marks hold more "prestige" years ago?

My normal usage for this type of punctuation, when not quoting, is to place them around a statement that I wish to not take responsibility for or to express contempt for the statement thusly surrounded.

However, I have seen usage of these symbols with expressions that might be taken seriously: a fifty-year-old G.I. Fathers’ Day plaque with the words 'My Dad—“The Greatest Of Them All” ', a Mel Bay guitar book that ended with the words 'End of Grade One—“Proceed To Grade Two” ', or an advertisement such as 'Here at Anytown Grocery “We’re Here To Serve You” '.

Today, these statements would seem to be quoteless, as putting them in quotes would (as least to me) make me wary of what exactly is going on; it would be a hint to search for fine print.

So, was the use of quotes many years ago not so symbolic of doubt as they seem to be today?

They’ve been symbolic of doubt for a very long time.

However, people also think that putting something in quotes somehow makes it seem more important (this is still going on).

Also, people used to tend to quote a slogan (e.g., “Over one million served”).

What “Reality Chuck” said. Particularly about the slogan.

Over here it’s known as Greengrocer’s Syndrome.

For example, signs outside the shop that read ‘Get your “potatoes” here’ - unwittingly casting doubt on the authenticity of the vegetables. Even better when it combined with misuse of the apostrophe; then you get something like ‘get your “potatoe’s” here’.

Why greengrocers are particularly prone to this I’ve no idea.

Ugh! The apostrophe thing drives me nuts. Just last night, I was standing in a bar and there’s a huge bannner on the wall advertising the bar’s Monday Night Football specials. Apparently, this bar shows the game on six large TV’s. Why do people think that an apostrophe equals a plural noun?

I know, it’s a ridiculous and petty pet peeve, and I assure you it’s by no means the biggest problem in my life, but nevertheless, it drives me up the wall.

To paraphrase someone, “Sometimes a quote is just a quote.”

If you are quoting a slogan, then it is just a quote and why not put quotation marks around it? Sometimes you use quotes to indicate that you are naming things, especially when the name might not be familiar to everybody. And finally, “scare quotes” are used to express doubt. [sic] has the same function.

Scare quotes are also used to introduce new terms in text. :slight_smile: It’s the double quotes that, er, quote utterances… it you’re using the style that distinguishes between them.

I thought [sic] was used to mark mistakes that were being directly quoted, so that the reader knew it wasn’t a mistake of the writer.

This may be a bit far afield, but it reminds me of something that comes up whenever you have to grade essays. I think part of the academic maturation process is that a direct quote is not necessary to lend authority. Immature–or perhaps it’s just better to say bad–writers create these essays where they add very little content between strings and strings of quotes from their sources. I’ve always wanted a rubber stamp that says, “Paraphrase!” because I write it so often. It’s obvious that they want to borrow some of the gravitas of the original source, but it’s really quite pathetic.

It often seems to me that quotes include a snide little implied “[sic]”, as though the writer is saying, “Here’s the incredibly stupid thing the other dude said, word for word. I don’t dare paraphrase, because you’ll accuse me of twisting his words to make him look dumb.” (I don’t mean to include the [ quote ] tag in this–that usually just indicates that you’re responding to something specific.)

I don’t know about quotation marks, but what seems like randomly placed dash-marks in the middle of words seemed more common in yester-years; they’re much less common to-day. I heard that dash-marks went away as a conservation measure, to re-duce the use of news-paper and type-writer ink during World-War II.

For a few years I lived in a small town where quotes were routinely used in signs for “emphasis.”

My specularion about the root reason is that quotes were a lot easier for sign painters to pull off than bolding or italics, back in the days when most signs were painted.

Um, speculation, that is.

If you were to read newspapers from the 1900-1950 period, you would find that quote marks were used around words that were “slang” or rather new to the language. While the writer might be using the quote marks for emphasis, they definitely served a purpose.

And, off the subject, bib! Just what the heck were you doing in a bar? You?

I think that quotes in old ad slogans came about because they really were quoting. The founder once said “A great way to start the day.” and that quote then became a slogan.

Interesting question, and one I’d never really thought about before. I’ll second Podkayne’s proposition about using quotes as a slightly-less-pointed sic. I’d never heard of the Greengrocers’ Syndrome but it makes sense.
I don’t know about anyone else but I tend to unconsciously absorb language usages. I don’t do it aurally–have a tin ear for accents, etc.–but print seems to stick onto my mental filters like lint. Being prone to reading older and/or experimentally quirky things bend my own style, entirely without thought. If a nifty conceptual shorthand thing slides into my brain, I use it.
Then again, I’m still sorting out the giddy nuances of italics.


How else are we supposed to emphasize the most important part of a 1920’s style “Death Ray.”

I always thought that the emphasis was supposed to be on “1920’s style” Death Ray–to distinguish between those beautifullly designed art deco Death Rays and their bland “1990’s style” counterparts, or Og forbid, the hellishly unreliable “1960’s style” ones. What were those folks thinking?

Those are hyphens, not dashes (the latter are twice as wide as hyphens). The part about them being dropped as a paper conservation measure in WW2 is bunk.

The normal progress of a compound word is to begin as two words, then a hyphenated word, then one word. E.g.: on line, on-line, online. A lot of compound words that we take for granted today have gone through that transformation.

I’m a 54-year old geezer (who’s studying codging.) I can tell you that improper use of quote marks were frowned on just as much long ago as they are now. Apostrophes in plurals looked just as dumb then, too. Dumbth is nothing new.