Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arrrgh! The "Chapter" of Unnecessary "Quotations"

I am still alive. I think. The problem with staying someplace very quiet and with completely unstructured time is that there is very little to distract you when you have cramps. I haven't been working on my book manuscript Voltron, Defender of the Universe for the past couple of days since it is hard to concentrate on stupid little details like making sense argumentatively when you are pissy and crampy and annoyed.

Today is a bit better. The chapter is also a bit better --- except for the spots that I had fixed and then discovered a big pile of notes on recent scholarship I made before flying out here and that I have just now dumped back in and bolded. Le Sigh. One step forward, three steps backward, roll on the ground in misery. That's my process!

The real trouble will be looking at the final subsection, which I keep glancing at and going, why is this pointless boring shit here in the chapter again? I know it has a point, but it is not coming out clearly, and this idea is so old to me I am tired of it. Clearly I cannot deal with it while crampy and lacking sleep.

So instead I am cleaning up my prose back near the beginning and waging war against my own grad-student-ness. Seriously, what was my obsession with sarcastic scare quotes? They are everywhere, littering my chapter --- really only this first, lumpy, apprentice chapter --- with their sarcasm and explanatory shortcuts. But in a lot of cases, I don't want to simply remove the scare quotes and let the words stand --- like "good behavior" and "nobility" and "purity" --- well, maybe purity would still work there --- so I have to rewrite each damn sentence. And I keep finding more of them! Stupid scare quote compulsion! I don't "hate" you, scare quotes, I hate you! With no irony at all! I send all my extra quote marks to the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks to rot where they belong.

Grumble grumble grumble "reality" in quote marks, my ass. What was I even trying to say there? I need to get me a sharpener to fix up all those dulled, pointless words. "Words," even.


3 comments:

undine said...

Maybe the scare quotes crept in there by themselves? That'd be my defense. (Hope you feel better.)

dan said...

Subject: scare quotes: who coined the term and when and why the word "scare"?
Like others here, I am an advocate of ''scare quotes,'' (scare quotes
mine). I also think they are useful
punctuation tools for academic papers, newspaper opeds and even news
headlines. However, having done a little research on the origins and
coinage of "scare quotes" as a term, I now believe that the term is
mis-named and meaningless as it currently exists, since there is
nothing "scary" about them. It is impossible to find the first coiner
of the term, but it happened long before 1946 when US writer Carey
McWilliams used the term (with a hyphen: "scare-quotes") in a
nonfiction book he was writing about California and Upton Sinclair
works. Newsweek magazine used the term for the first time in 1993 in
an article by Peter Plagens about Roy Lichentstein's art, with the
author saying "Lichtenstein puts 'scare quotes' around the entire
field of art." Thing is: ask most anyone if they know who coined the
term first and when and why and you will not find a soul who knows. So
my question is this: why are we in 2012 using a writing term whose
origins and coinage nobody knows and can "fact check" (scare quotes
mine) and whose first word "scare" has absolutely no meaning in terms
of scaring anyone? My last question is this: could we find a better,
more meaningful word for this term, keeping the usefulness of it alive
and the use as well, but giving it a better ("new and improved) name
such as either "flag quotes" -- meaning that something has been
"flagged" by its use, or "spot quotes" meaning something has been
''spotlighted'' by its use? Or any other terms that you can think of
that might fit the "bill," so to speak? They have also been called
''sneer quotes'', ''distancing quotes'', ''mendacity quotes'' and even
''greengrocer's quotes'' and there's a list of dozens of other names.
''Scare quotes" for some reason that cannot be explained seems to have
caught on in both the UK and the USA, with less frequent use in
Australia or New Zealand, and the term [scare quotes] is now so
''embedded" in the culture and the blogosphere that it's going to be
difficult to replace it with a more meaningful and reader-friendly
term. Stiil, I wonder if a new term for this "thing" might help
clarify its meaning and its use. Your views?

dan said...

qusetion re i heard that this meaningless and mis-named term was coined by philsophers in an academic setting, maybe 80 years ago. Why do grad studentrs so often talk about scare quotes? and how did the term itself ebcome embeded now in our culture? re ''Seriously, what was my obsession with sarcastic scare quotes? They are everywhere, littering my chapter --- really only this first, lumpy, apprentice chapter --- with their sarcasm and explanatory shortcuts. But in a lot of cases, I don't want to simply remove the scare quotes and let the words stand --- like "good behavior" and "nobility" and "purity" --- well, maybe purity would still work there --- so I have to rewrite each damn sentence. And I keep finding more of them! Stupid scare quote compulsion! I don't "hate" you, scare quotes, I hate you! With no irony at all!