One of the most misunderstood uses of quotation marks in the English language is that of the “not” (sometimes called scare quotes). Many readers assume wrongly that the use of quotation marks around a word or phrase that is not obviously either a quote from someone or the object of the sentence is in fact just the writers way of emphasizing the phrase.

This is so wrong.

When ” ” appears around a word or phrase, and that phrase is neither the object of the sentence nor a quote, this means that the word or phrase is “not” or “not really” or a joke.

An example is the link you just clicked on. The sentence reads:

“So, the novel has become a sort of “sacred writ”  to us, and is thus the only required text for our beginners Druid course.”

What the author is saying here is that the novel is NOT sacred writ. This is a joke. Lighten the hell up.

(Webmaster’s note: What I find most peculiar is some of these same folks are well familiar with the use of air quotes in conversation, yet the above goes right over their heads. It’s sad.)