Quotation Marks In The News
On 4 March 2017, Trump tweeted:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory.
At a press briefing on Monday, those quotation marks formed the basis of a justification for the outlandish accusation. “The president used the word ‘wiretap’ in quotes,” said Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, using his fingers to make the air-quote sign, “to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.” The quotation marks, he said when pressed, meant the president was “referring to surveillance overall”. So, not necessarily wiretapping then – handy should evidence fail to materialise in future. Or “evidence”, as Trump might say.
From Donald Trump and the ‘rise’ of scare ‘quotes’ by Emine Saner (Guardian Mar 14, 2017)
President Trump: But if you take a look at some of the things written about wiretapping and eavesdropping… and don’t forget I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes.
From Tucker Carlson and President Trump interview (Fox News: March 15, 2017)
Serendipitously, I had published two posts on this same element of punctuation earlier this week:
- Situation-Dependent Quotation Punctuation: Questation Marks, Quoproximation Signs, Quoquivalence Symbols, Quodaptation Marks
- Situation-Dependent Quotation Punctuation II: QuidProQuotation Marks, Misattribution Marks, And More
Clearly, this cosmic confluence creates an obligation on my part to devise a punctuation mark appropriate for the pronouncements of President Trump and those of his ilk.
It turns out that my first title for this mark, Narcissistically Determined, Ambiguity Enhancing, Infinitely Malleable, Misleading, Kings-X Scare Quotes, was descriptive but just didn’t scan well enough to catch on. Happily, I recalled the useful Trump antecedent, Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1872). His pertinent declaration to Alice follows:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
And so, AllanShowalter.com is proud to offer Trumpty Dumpty Quotation Marks:
A substantially more erudite and enlightening discussion of scare quotes can be found at The Scare Quote: 2016 in a Punctuation Mark by Megan Garber (The Atlantic: Dec 23, 2016)
Credit Due Department: Trumpty Dumpty adapted from art by Chris Piascik