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No. 50: A handy guide to atmospheric elevation of spoken communication

A handy guide to atmospheric elevation of spoken communication

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Strip by: Ian Boreham

title: Guide to air punctuation

{A man holding up a pair of fingers on each hand.}

caption: Double air quotes “ ”

{A woman holding up one finger on each hand.}

caption: Single air quotes ‘ ’

{A man holding up his pinky, middle and index fingers on each hand.}

caption: Nested double and single air quotes ‘ “ ” ’

{A man holding up two fingers on his left hand, and holding down two fingers on his right.}

caption: German air quotes „ “

{A woman holding her hands at 45 degrees to each side of her head, with thumbs down at right angles to the hands, bracketing her face, like guillemets.}

caption: French air quotes « »

{A man holding his hands like picture frame corners around his face.}

caption: Japanese air quotes 「 」

{A sequence of pictures of a woman: holding up two fingers on her right hand, speaking, and then holding up two fingers on her left hand.}

caption: Chronologically correct air quotes

{Three girls posing for a photo, the one in the middle making the "rabbit ears" symbol behind the others' heads.}

caption: Being “funny”

{Winston Churchill making the famous "V for victory" gesture with both hands.}

caption: Quotable air quotes

{Ronnie James Dio making the "metal horns" gesture with both hands.}

caption: Metäl quötes

{A set of three "failed air punctuation marks" gestures.}

caption for one fist above another with thumb pointing down: Semi-colon: ; (nobody knew when to use it)

caption for man with arm held horizontally in front of chest: Em rule: — (looks like some kind of weird salute)

caption for complicated curly shape made from two hands: At symbol: @ (too many injuries)

{A set of three people with their heads bent over to their right, making different facial expressions.}

caption: Emoticons: overcoming the limitations of spoken language in expressing emotions.

caption for man trying to smile: :-)

caption for man frowning: :-(

caption for Miley Cyrus with tongue poking out of corner of mouth: :-P

The author writes:

Do people who use air quotes have an inflated opinion of themselves? Does the punctur-ation let out all the air from the quotes?

Wow! Strip 50. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it that far. This was another of those strips that I thought should be relatively quick (no colour, right?), but ended up taking a lot longer than usual. Drawing faces is hard work! Good practice, though.

Air quotes are something I used to hate when they first appeared, but I have found myself doing them on occasion in the last few years. This strip is my first step in admitting that I have a problem, and taking action to correct it. However, I can guarantee you that I will never say "quote-unquote" instead of "so-called". If I ever come close to it, at the very least I will surround the words being quoted with the verbal quotation marks, instead of opening and immediately closing the quotes beforehand.

I gather that there is a mild uptake of the air quotes idea in non-English-speaking countries, but making up properly representative quote gestures is less popular; often they will just use the English-style double quotes, even if their native quote symbols are different.

I'm trying to decide how the guy in panel 3 is coordinating his fingers. Does he start with the pinkies, and waggle them the entire time while he is talking, but also pop up the other fingers for the nested quote, and waggle them for a shorter period of time? I only realised after I'd drawn him that I'd originally intended the double quotes to be on the outside, which seems more comfortable, except for the fact that our hands aren't shaped that way.

I thought I had seen photos of Churchill making double-V gestures, but they weren't easy to find. Maybe I was actually remembering Tim Brooke-Taylor in the Churchill episode of The Goodies? I also found myself reading the history of "metal horns" and also the TV Tropes "weird salute" page. A decent education all round.

I did consider including the "hashtag" gesture, but I didn't want to give it any encouragement. It's bad enough that people pronounce the hash symbol as "hashtag" in the first place, when clearly the hashtag is the symbol and the label together; let alone needing to make the symbol with their fingers when they say it. Grumble grumble...

Drawn in Krita and Inkscape. This time I drew each of the frames as a separate krita image and imported them all into a single Inkscape file. It was easier to manage the drawing that way, although it exacerbated the overflowing nature of the strip's directory, already full of reference photos of my own and images downloaded from the internet.