Quote-Unquote Funny

People who write signs often use quotation marks for emphasis, but that’s wrong. The main function of quotation marks is to indicate that text comes from another source. Somewhat oddly, quotation marks are also deployed in a contrary fashion: Scare quotes, as they’re called in this case, are used to cast doubt. (They’re the punctuation equivalent of raised eyebrows.) So when quotation marks are obviously not quoting something, they come off as scare quotes—as if the subject is not what it seems to be. And that can be amusing.

If you liked this, you’ll probably like these posts about misspellings:
••• A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Worbs
••• You’re My Typo
••• English as a Fecund Language
••• Produced by Errant Spelling
••• When Words Fail: More Misspellings
••• Signs of the Tines: More Misspellings
••• Where’s Auto Correct When You Need It?
••• Spelling Is Overeated Anyway
••• I Put a Misspell on You



  1. All of these gave me a much-needed laugh this morning so thank you. But the “curb” your dog one seems appropriate for quotation marks to my brain. Is there a third usage for quotation marks perhaps?

    • I agree about “curb”. While the sign owner might not have meant it ironically, since no NYC dog owner has actually curbed their dog (i.e., made sure their dog’s waste went into the gutter rather than on the sidewalk) since the Dinkins administration (or maybe even earlier), I’d say that the scare quotes are appropriate because the sign owner means, “Don’t let your dog piss on my stoop!”

    • Funny, I almost deleted that one before posting this, but I didn’t think anyone would read it that closely. I suppose the quotation marks imply a slang or idiomatic usage.

  2. Thank you for another “amusing thread.”

  3. These are “funny”