scare » square

Chiefly in:   square quotes

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • The only way to “win” this war is to depopulate entire cities. I put square quotes around the word “win”, because even if the tactic works, I don’t see what it will gain us in the long run. (link)
  • For all intents and purposes, we will call these people terrorists. Why? Because they are. No square quotes. Just the word. Terrorists. (link)
  • There are packs upon packs of militants or insurgents or freedom fighters, as those who love the square quotes call them. (link)
  • Why do I have a burden of evidence when it’s sufficient for you to just make ironic references to mafia films or drop words into square quotes? (link)
  • Brian Leiter (who is responsible, indirectly, for the square quotes around the word “analytic,” by the way) wonders what philosophers think about this. Read the whole post, and let him know in a comment. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

Even though the semantics of _square quotes_ may be somewhat obscure, the eggcorn is fairly well-attested. Maybe that’s because _scare quotes_ aren’t particularly frightening. And a connotation of _fair and square_ might come into it as well.

Real square quotation marks actually exist in East Asian languages. Wikipedia tells us:

>The Japanese and Chinese languages use square quote marks, because they are well-suited to languages that can be written in both vertical and horizontal orientations and can be easily distinguished from Chinese characters. Double quotes are used to mark quote-within-quote segments. English-style double quotes are also used for Chinese, but only rarely in Japanese due to the possibility of confusion with the dakuten sign: especially when handwritten, “か” ka might be incorrectly interpreted as が ga, but 「か」 is unambiguous.

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/02/10 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Sarah , 2005/05/15 at 5:51 pm

    Could “square quotes” be influenced by “square brackets,” another form of punctuation sometimes verbalized–particularly by Canadians and Brits, who call parentheses, (), “brackets,” and thus need to distinguish brackets, [], as “square brackets”?

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