Tuesday 27 February 2007

Air punctuation is just wrong

One of my many (many, many, oh so many) pet hates is when people make 'air quotes' with their fingers while speaking, for emphasis - you know, two fingers raised on each hand like little rabbit ears, which they wiggle when they get to a word they want to emphasise as a quote, or as sarcasm - e.g: "I love your blog, it's so (bunny ears) funny"...
Anyway, I hate that, and I know I'm not alone. What I particularly hate is that it's contagious - I have often caught myself doing it. I have even once put down a full mug of coffee, simply to have both hands free to make the gesture - even now, just thinking about it, I am filled with a burning inner shame at my own hypocrisy.
But Nini has managed to take the irritation this causes me to a whole new level, simply by getting it wrong and doing it with just a single finger on each hand. I find this almost unbearable: not only does the action itself set my teeth on edge to start with, but that's just bad punctuation - you clearly need to use two fingers on each hand to make a quote mark. If you are going to deliberately add hateful air punctuation to a conversation, at least get it right...
This drives me crazy beyond any kind of logical comprehension. But revealing this to Nini was a mistake, on two fronts: firstly, she began to genuinely wonder aloud if my mental condition was normal (how could anyone who was sane care at all about something so trivial?), but secondly (of course) she has made damn sure that everytime she uses the gesture it's deliberately with single fingers, because now she knows that it will doubly irritate me...

Update: Since this blog went live, I have had a stream of comments on this topic, citing a series of very exact and specialist circumstances where a 'single finger' air quote would be acceptable, even correct. Can I just make it clear, right now, that such comments are not welcome? They are the work of monsters and madmen.
Here's one such message: "If you were quoting someone else who'd made bunny ears during the passage of speech you were quoting, then you should use single quotes to differentiate from the double quotes around the quotation."
Now, as far as I can follow, this argument does have the merit of being actually right (in that, yes, I do believe that would be the the correct usage of quote marks - that is, if they were real quote marks that were written down, not unnecessarily sketched in the air by a pillock) - but it also has the massive disadvantage of forcing two examples of air punctuation into a discussion that would almost certainly have been enriched by not having any.

And here's the gist of another conversation, that took place on Instant Messenger:
Them: I think single air quotes could be valid. In some programmatic terms, there's no difference between double or single quotes
Me: I'm making another air gesture right now. Can you guess what it is?
Them: Hmm, is it with one or two fingers?
Me: Actually it's more a kind of shaking movement...
Them: Ah, I think I know the one.

I am not naming the individuals concerned in the above exchanges, to protect the very guilty.