Mendacity quotes

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Quotation marks (typically the single ones ‘ ’) that are used to mark the use of a word as not necessarily one that the present writer would endorse (The so-called ‘universal grammar ’ that linguists talk about) are standardly known as scare quotes. Those used (illiterately, it is often thought) simply to emphasize or call attention to a word (‘FRESH’ TOMATOES!) are sometimes, less standardly, called greengrocer's quotes. I think we need a third and separate name for the increasingly common journalistic use seen in this national science news story taken from a British newspaper today (I quote it in full, so nothing is being suppressed):

Hormone ‘makes women unfaithful’
WOMEN with high levels of one sex hormone are more likely to have affairs — and are considered more attractive by themselves and others. Those with the most oestradiol, a form of oestrogen, are less satisfied with their lovers and more likely to have a roving eye, a study suggests today. ‘Attractive women may not only have more alternatives but also high standards that are difficult to satisfy,’ said US psychologist Dr Katrina Durante, whose study is published by the Royal Society. ‘They may have fewer reasons to be committed to any partner if higher-quality potential mates are available.’

I am not commenting on the fact that the report says not a single word about the hormone causing infidelity. This is Language Log, not Endocrinology Log. What I'm pointing to is that the quoted words are not a quote: they never appear in the article at all.

The inaccuracy of the headline is indeed glaring. The story actually presents two strikingly and somewhat bafflingly different lines of content. First, the newspaper reports that oestradiol levels correlate with (a) higher infidelity, (b) stronger self-perception of being pretty, (c) greater other-perceived attractiveness, and (d) lower satisfaction with partners. Second, Dr Durante is quoted as making certain (seemingly unrelated) claims about women who are pretty: that they have (a) more options, (b) high standards, and (c) less reason to stick with a dweeb when hunks are accessible. The things Dr Durante is quoted as saying are plausible enough, but none of them relate to hormones at all. And nothing in the whole story mentions hormonal causation of any behavior.

But independently of this, what is this practice of making up an expression and putting it in single quotation marks in the headline? (I'm not saying it is new, by the way. I have been seeing it for decades.) We are surely not talking about greengrocer's quotes. And these aren't scare quotes either. Scare quotes are used for the opposite kind of case: where the expression has been bandied about already, and the writer wants to indicate detachment from its implications or skepticism about its being the appropriate wording to use (scare quotes because the writer is scared to commit to this way of phrasing things). Here, the headline writer is fully committed to the appropriacy of the expression in the quotation marks: the headline writer made them up! (The fact that the pseudo-quote is wildly inaccurate too just makes it worse in this case.)

My suggestion for what to call this use of quotation marks is in my title: let's call them mendacity quotes.

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53 Comments »

  1. NW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:07 am

    It's also mendacity quantification: the article mentions no quantity, but the headlinese allows for any kind of quantification the reader cares to read in, with a nudge towards "all".

  2. Bob Lieblich said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:20 am

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if people consider women with higher levels of a particular hormone to be more attractive, then there is a link, however tenuous, between the hormone and the characteristics attributed to the more attractive. But it certainly isn't obvious from the article as written.

    Full agreement on the function of the quotation marks and the suggested label. Strangely, it makes me remember "Nixon: Can't Stand Pat."

  3. fev said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    My impression was that the British papers (mostly the redtops, but I think it shows up in the qualities sometimes) use the mendacity quotes for summarizing the part of the hed that's asserted and needs attribution, equal to the US "Study says" or "police say" or "lawsuit claims." The US approach would be

    Study: Hormone makes women unfaithful

    One of my favorites was

    Writer is 'killed by face op'

    for which we would have been stuck with

    Plastic surgery killed writer, suit says

    You can even use it for a whole deck:
    THE PREDATOR
    ‘Rapist prowled woodland then pounced on nine women and girls as young as 10’

    I miss the Sun.

    [For the benefit of American readers: I don't think fev is saying that the hours of sunshine in the midwest of the USA are inadequate (though that may be true). I think fev is missing the truly trashy tabloid newspaper called The Sun. —GKP]

  4. DW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:40 am

    I've been noticing this phenomenon on the BBC's website for some time. (As a US exile, I don't get my fix of Brit newspapers any more). While

    "Hormone ‘makes women unfaithful’"

    is shorter and perhaps less ponderous than

    "Hormone makes women unfaithful, study claims"

    it leaves us requiring a new construction to distinguish something that actually _is_ a verbatim quotation. What could that be? Single versus double-quotes, perhaps?

    Despite their financial problems, the major US newspapers don't seem to have let their standards decline quite this far…

  5. DW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    Incidentally, the report of this study in the Daily Express gives more detail that brings brings us slightly closer to the claim in the headline:

    "Psychologist Dr Kristina Durante of the University of Texas said: “Physically attractive women receive more male attention and are more likely to be the targets of mate poaching…"

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/79926/The-sex-hormone-that-makes-women-cheat

    While "are more likely to be the targets of mate poaching" is not the same as "are more likely to cheat", it's not a huge leap.

  6. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:44 am

    It's definitely a UK thing. Here's a sample of recent BBC News headlines:

    Arthritis 'woes' worse in women
    World 'needs radical cuts' in CO2
    Iranians 'worried about the economy'
    US 'fake death businessman' found
    Guantanamo agents 'used torture'
    Polanski 'has no US return plan'

    Even when the quoted material is presented with an explicit speaking agent (e.g., Polanski), it's just a paraphrase rather than a direct quote. And in the context of criminal accusations (e.g. 'fake death businessman') it's simply shorthand for "alleged(ly)".

  7. John Kozak said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    Until a few years ago there was a pizzeria at the top of Charing Cross Road . Outside, it had an A-board featuring a cartoon Mexican bandito with the speech balloon: "I LOVE 'FRESH' PIZZA". Wish I'd photographed it; I was always intrigued by what it was trying to say and not say.

  8. Chris said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:59 am

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if people consider women with higher levels of a particular hormone to be more attractive, then there is a link, however tenuous, between the hormone and the characteristics attributed to the more attractive.

    Only if the attribution of those characteristics to the more attractive is accurate.

    Even then, assuming that the causation starts from the hormone is unjustified. People that are perceived as more attractive are treated differently and therefore know that they are perceived as attractive (whether or not they also perceive themselves as attractive, which they probably will, both because their standards might not be that different from everyone else's and because of the bandwagon effect). This could easily affect their hormone levels – and their behavior, too, for that matter.

    The hormone could easily be at the tail end of most of the chains of causation it's involved in (probably not all, or why would it be there in the first place; but even a completely useless hormone response isn't impossible) but you wouldn't know that from the article, which makes it sound like you could break up someone's marriage/long-term relationship with a syringe. Maybe you could, but the study is far from showing that.

  9. DW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:07 am

    The headline Arthritis 'woes' worse in women in the previous comment caught my eye. Here's the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7826151.stm It covers a study summarized by its author as

    Lead researcher Dr Tuulikki Sokka, a consultant in rheumatology at the Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, said: "The level of rheumatoid arthritis appears to be pretty much the same in both sexes but the symptoms of joint tenderness and things like that appear to be worse in women.

    I am at a loss to explain the role of the quotes around 'woes' in this case. According to our previous theory, the report ought to be alleging that arthiritis pains are woes (without necessarily using the exact word "woes"). However, it does not seem to be doing that. It is claiming that women experience worse symptoms than men, even though X-rays could not predict this. Therefore

    Arthiritis woes 'worse in women'

    would be the expected result.

    Is this just carelessness on the part of the headline-writer and his/her editors (if any), or is something else going on here?

  10. Jongseong Park said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    It's not a uniquely UK phenomenon either nor one confined to English. I see it all the time in Korean news reporting. A cursory check confirms that out of the 14 main headlines on Google News Korea, three contain unambiguous examples of these types of quotations that paraphrase rather than report the actual words said:

    인준청문회 나선 힐러리 "북핵은 시급한 현안" (Hilary at confirmation hearing: "North Korea's nuclear program is an urgent issue")
    "데이터요금 과다 통신사 책임 없다" ("Telecoms operator not liable for charging excessive data fees")
    "대화 우선, 군사력은 나중" 힐러리 '스마트 외교' 천명 ("Dialogue first, military force later"; Hilary declares 'smart diplomacy')

    I just take it as a different languages and language variants having different semantic ranges of what quotations marks apply to.

  11. Martyn Cornell said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    As a headline writer on national newspapers in the UK, I can confirm that these are 'claim' quotes – they're a distancing device, like scare quotes, but unlike scare quotes they're not meant to carry any value judgment, quite the opposite. They are most often used when putting headlines on reports of court cases when one side, eg the prosecution, has presented claims that could be challenged by the other side, and they are meant to indicate that the paper is reporting a claim, not a fact, either in case the defendant is found not guilty and then tries to sue the newspaper for having presented something in a headline as a bald fact when a court has ruled that it is a falsehood, or, more commonly, to avoid being charged with contempt of court because the headline is seen as prejudicial.

    Claim quotes are also used before a case gets to court, again to avoid being prejudicial and just in case there is an innocent explanation behind the facts, as in Ben's example "US 'fake death businessman' found". This, of course, means "the business who, it is alleged, faked his death has been discovered" . He may have an excellent answer to all the accusations that have been made about him: in the meanwhile the newspaper headline needs to identify him as succinctly as possible, without declaring him definitely guilty of any crime. Hence the claim quotes.

    These sorts of claim quotes are normally used at the insistence of newspaper lawyers. Others, such as the ones in Ben's examples "World 'needs radical cuts' in CO2" and "Guantanamo agents 'used torture'", are a shorthand way of saying "someone is making this claim and we neither give it authority nor dismiss it, we're just reporting it". Frequently what is inside these sorts of claim quotes is a paraphrase of what was actually said, to make it fit inside the headline space, and I don't personally see any problem with that – provided it's an accurate paraphrase, of course …

  12. Ian Preston said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:33 am

    Reports on this are in many of today's newspapers with most of them suggesting a causal link. The report in The Sun is actually the most sober I could see, never going beyond a claim of association.

    The underlying Royal Society press release does hint at a causal relationship without quite committing itself: "But although hormones can underlie the motives behind women's mating choices, they might not control them directly." The article itself goes a little further, discussing mechanisms which might be involved in the link and concluding: "Nevertheless, considering hormone (…) and extensive mating and relationship research (…), we believe that links between oestradiol and mating strategy probably involve both direct causal paths and indirect feedback loops."

  13. DW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:34 am

    Martyn: So are you saying that, were it not for the lawyers, the headlines would instead beHormone makes women unfaithfulUS fake death businessman found with no disquotational device at all?

  14. John Ross said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    The information referred to may not be in the article (in Metro) but it is in the Royal Society's press release, so this is no more than a shorthand way of getting extra information across and making the headline a bit zappier at the same time – I don't know if it's deontologically correct, but I do it myself sometimes. The press release says: "the women were more likely to cheat" (the 'the' indicates those women with higher hormone levels), and though as scientists you could argue that that does not mean "makes women unfaithful," you can't blame others for a simpler reading. And the title of the press release ("Hormone linked to infidelity in women") suggests to me at least that the Royal Society is actively looking for a wee bit of sensationalist publicity.for itself.

  15. DW said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    For some reason the formatting was stripped from my last comment, even though it showed up in preview. I'll try again:

    Martyn: So are you saying that, were it not for the lawyers, the headlines would instead be "Hormone makes women unfaithful", "US fake death businessman found", with no disquotational device at all?

  16. Matt B said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:12 am

    I thought greengrocers' marks were the spurious apostrophes used to make plural words?

  17. mae said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    My "greengrocer" (actually the produce section at a US grocery) once had two types of tomatoes in shrink wrap. The more expensive ones were labeled "Vine-Ripened Tomatoes." The cheaper ones were " 'Vine-Ripened' Tomatoes" — such honesty!

  18. Mark Liberman said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    Greg Kochanski has recently suggested that a new kind of punctuation is needed to represent a "tight and accurate paraphrase". He calls this a "semi-quote", and argues for it on the grounds that it helps bridge a gap in scientific writing.

    You could argue that the quotes used in these headlines are intended in a similar way, to mark a paraphrase so as to shift credit (or blame) to a source other than the newspaper. The paraphrases may not be "tight and accurate", but then, the rest of the story usually isn't either.

  19. Chris Hunt said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:54 am

    If you're interested in more examples of inappropriate quotation marks, take a look at http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/

  20. fev said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    Martyn: Is "claim quotes" what the subs call them in day-to-day use?

  21. Rick S said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 11:27 am

    Arthritis 'woes' worse in women: Could I be the only one who reads this as scare quotes? It's as if the writer wanted to say, "Come on, girls, you're not really suffering, you're just playing for sympathy!"

    Hormone ‘makes women unfaithful’: I wouldn't have bothered reading the article in the first place, since the quality of the science reporting is obviously next to nil. It doesn't strike me as lying, only silly oversimplification. Maybe "pablum quotes"?

  22. language hat said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    Quotation marks (typically the single ones ‘ ’)

    Only in the UK, where single quotes are standard, with double ones used for quotes within quotes. In the US, the reverse is true, so the headline would be
    Hormone "makes women unfaithful"

    There is no typographical difference between scare or claim quotes and the regular kind.

    And I think "mendacity quotes" is unfair; such pseudo-quotes can of course be used inaccurately, but in general journalists are trying, with whatever degree of success (usually less when they're dealing with science), to convey a rough summary of what they're presenting in the story.

  23. fev said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 11:59 am

    Most US papers use single quotes in heds (St. Louis is an exception) and other display type — saves spaces, and internal quotes are rarely if ever an issue.

  24. Robert Coren said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

    I've also seen the term "sneer quotes", which I think means essentially the same as "scare quotes", although the use of the term says something slightly different about the quoter's attitude, I guess.

  25. Martyn Cornell said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    Fev – no, I invented the expression "claim quotes" for the purposes of this discussion. If subs ever made mention of them, they'd just be called "quote marks".

    DW – So are you saying that, were it not for the lawyers, the headlines would instead be "Hormone makes women unfaithful", "US fake death businessman found", with no disquotational device at all?

    In the hormones case it's not the lawyers that will the quotemarks into existence, it's the newspaper's desire to indicate to its readers that this is just a claim, not a hard fact. In the (alleged) death faker's case it's a mixture of not wishing to find the man guilty before hearing his side of the case, and fearing court action if it did look as if the newspaper had prejudged the case. The lawyers probably didn't actually have to intervene – most journalists know enough to know they should avoid doing anything that could be contempt of court (but not always …)

  26. jk said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

    As an American journalist, I've noticed this distinct difference between American and British papers.

    What I wonder about, though, is why — to my eye and ear — the direct quotations in British papers generally tend to "sound" British, even when the person being quoted is American. I've noticed it again and again over the years, but I've never been able to put my finger on what exactly gives me that impression.

    Has anyone else noticed that? I would imagine the explanation for why could simply be that the fuzzy process of quoting, filtered through the reporter's ears and then "cleaned up" by the reporter and editors, tends to make all the quotations in a particular publication sound alike. But can anyone explain the differences between Britspeak and American English that would show up even in the printed word, when presumably the reporters are attempting to be honest transcribers? It's more subtle than "lorry" for "truck" or "lift" for "elevator," through word substitution does sometimes play a part, I think.

  27. Tom Williams said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

    I agree with the comments above that they're essentially a replacement for 'study says' or 'X claims'. One little thing to add is that the reason they're so common on the BBC website is that the same headlines and stories are usually used on the BBC Ceefax service (I have no idea if something similar exists in the US – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceefax). Headlines on Ceefax have a very strict length range – it's something like 30-33 characters. So it's not simple laziness that makes the BBC drop the 'study says'.

  28. A Reader said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    Dr. Durante's comments are actually related to the preceding comments- you may disagree with the claim, but there is no logic gap. She was not actually commenting on 'pretty' women, she was commenting on 'attractive' women. This is perfectly relevant, as the hormone is supposed to make women be 'considered more attractive by themselves and others'. This isn't even a particularly tenuous connection- the comments are clearly relevant and explore the implications of one result of the study (that they are considered more attractive) and how it might relate causally to another finding of the study (increased infidelity). This is, I think, good science, looking for causal connections between correlates, and advancing the ideas for critique.

  29. David Eddyshaw said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

    The BBC website is indeed fond of this device.
    One of the things that bugs me about it is that the scope of the mendacity-quoted part is often odd; unfortunately I haven't any very good examples to hand, but as an indication of what I mean cf today's

    US 'fake death businessman' found

    There actually seems to be no dispute that this bloke is, in fact, a business man; so one would have expected

    US 'fake death' businessman found

    I get the impression that the use of the quotes is essentially felt to be a sort of magical way of avoiding responsibilty for the whole assertion, with no great thought given to the actual structure at all. They're just sprinkled in somewhere.

    Come to think of it, shouldn't it be
    not

    Arthritis 'woes' worse in women

    but

    Arthritis woes 'worse in women'?

  30. gyokusai said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

    Martyn Cornell’s remark on “claim quotes” is interesting. Such claim quotes would, I might add, often seem indistinguishable from a device marketeers use, and especially direct marketeers: To put the headline in quotes as if someone had claimed it, thereby implying, or insinuating, that this is from a different source. This little trick is employed rather often because it works: people consistently respond more favorably to an advertisement or sales letter if the headline or headlines are set in claim quotes. Mendacity quotes, indeed.

    So both techniques seem to be related, but the respective purpose would be different. Or maybe not—I could easily imagine that the weight such claim quotes add to a headline might not be entirely unwelcome in journalistic use either.

    ^_^J.

  31. Nathan Myers said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    It appears that Martyn has carried the day, and "claim quotes" is the new term.

  32. dr pepper said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    We need more delimeters to make it clear what the intent is.

  33. parse said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

    the writer wants to indicate detachment from its implications or skepticism about its being the appropriate wording to use (scare quotes because the writer is scared to commit to this way of phrasing things).

    Scare quotes is the name I'm familiar with, but I associated the meaning more with the sneer quotes Robert Coren mentions. I thought there was an implication the words inside the quote were being mocked, like describing some phrase as politically correct.

  34. dw said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    Arthritis 'woes' worse in women: Could I be the only one who reads this as scare quotes? It's as if the writer wanted to say, "Come on, girls, you're not really suffering, you're just playing for sympathy!"

    BBC1: Any phrase that is claimed by someone, but not asserted by the BBC, should appear in quotes
    BBC2: Any word or phrase that the BBC headline writer regards with sarcasm or irony should appear in quotes
    BBC2: Delete all but the leftmost pair of quotes

    Applying BBC1 gives us Arthiritis woes "worse in women".
    Applying BBC2 gives us Arthiritis "woes" "worse in women".
    And applying BBC3 gives us Arthiritis "woes" worse in women. QED.

  35. dw said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

    I'm not saying it is new, by the way. I have been seeing it for decades

    The phenomenon goes back at least to "Crisis, what Crisis?" in 1979.

  36. Mabon said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

    Back in the '70s my college roommate used (in handwriting) what he referred to as "triple quotes" around words or phrases that were paraphrased, in order to distinguish them from true quotations. Excellent device for note-taking — I have used it myself — but it wouldn't be practical for electronic communication without the creation of a special character.

    Perhaps we can introduce such a punctuation device to distinguish among the different types of quotes we are discussing here. Surely some improvement is called for, lest we lose the most essential function of quotation marks — i.e., to signify the actual words someone has used.

  37. tnfalpha said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

    This reminded me a bit of an article I saw in the New Republic on the wall st journal's punctuation fetish.

  38. mollymooly said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 12:35 am

    The phenomenon goes back at least to "Crisis, what Crisis?" in 1979.

    I don't think so; the 1979 headline wasn't in quotes at all.

    I associate claim quotes with legal reporting, where, as has been said earlier, it has the disclaimer function of "allegedly" or "says prosecution witness". I had assumed before reading this post that the subeditor composing the headline would diligently read the reporter's copy and pick out a verbatim statement that summarised the newsworthy aspect of the testimony. Since I rarely read the court reports, I can't say whether this assumption is justified these days.

    In any case, descriptivists accept lexical drift, when a word gradually shifts meaning as what had once been an incidental characteristic becomes its essence, and the original essence is bleached out. Should we lament punctuation drift any more than lexical drift? I guess so, since it's harder to introduce a new punctuation mark than to coin a new word.

    But maybe typefacing can come to the rescue. Boldface has replaced many nineteenth-century uses of SMALL CAPS; why not distinguish "scare quotes", "claim quotes" and "verbatim quotes" using non-punctuation differences?

    Alternatively, leveraging existing textual apparatus, "[claim quotes might frame a bracketed editorial intervention]".

  39. Chas Belov said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 3:34 am

    Might this be a combination of "claim quotes" and the headline writer being under a deadline and not having time to digest the article fully?

  40. outeast said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 5:22 am

    'Claim quotes' is more accurate than 'mendacity quotes', because (as has been noted) the claim need not be (and often is not) misleading.

    'Mendacity quotes' is also somewhat misleading: to my ear, it suggests that they are used to indicate mendacity rather than being indicative of mendacity on the part of the user.

  41. BlueBottle said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 5:58 am

    Quotation marks (typically the single ones ‘ ’)

    Only in the UK, where single quotes are standard, with double ones used for quotes within quotes. In the US, the reverse is true, so the headline would be
    Hormone "makes women unfaithful"

    There is no typographical difference between scare or claim quotes and the regular kind.</blockquote

    There doesn't seem to be a single standard in the UK, and looking at the papers online at the moment, the majority seem to use double quotes.

    I've noticed that the majority of the professionally written press releases I receive match this description from Fowler's The King's English:

    There are single and double quotation marks, and, apart from minor peculiarities, two ways of utilizing the variety. The prevailing one is to use double marks for most purposes, and single ones for quotations within quotations, as:—"Well, so he said to me 'What do you mean by it?' and I said 'I didn't mean anything'". Some of those who follow this system also use the single marks for isolated words, short phrases, and anything that can hardly be called a formal quotation; this avoids giving much emphasis to such expressions, which is an advantage.

  42. BlueBottle said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 6:09 am

    Sorry, mucked up the coding, there.

  43. Linda the Copyeditor said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    Not being too familiar with the British press, I initially reacted to this post by thinking that we don't need a new term for this usage, since it already has a name: "making up quotes," or in other words, "lying." Then I read the comments acknowledging the convention and was completely floored. This is really thought to be a legitimate or useful device? To use the exact same punctuation that says "Someone actually uttered these exact words" in order to denote "No one actually uttered these exact words"? LAWYERS have recommended this practice?!?

  44. Gary said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

    I wish that "claim quotes" would become more standard in English. It would make translating from German so much easier. Formal German puts an allegation in the subjunctive (informal German uses some form of sollen) to signal "just reporting, not endorsing". Translations from German into English usually drop the implication, thereby making the translation sound much more pompous than the original German.

    I don't know how many other languages have an equivalent device for handling this sort of metalinguistic information

  45. mollymooly said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

    I've just serendipitously stumbled on a paper making a related point:

    It is a typologically attested tendency that reportative elements, that is, elements that indicate an indirect source of the utterance, tend to develop epistemic overtones, for example noncommitment of the speaker

    From Finnish muka – from reportative to dubitative by Taru Nordlund and Heli Pekkarinen, University of Helsinki

  46. James Wimberley said,

    January 16, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

    I think we need some new punctuation for claim quotes: treble quotation marks.
    The last punctuation mark developed was, I've heard, the semi-colon. There's supposedly a small – very small – museum in Wolfenbüttel devoted to it. Can LL claim a prize for innovation in punctuation?

  47. Garbanzo said,

    January 17, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

    Sometimes in instant messaging I use tildes (~) to signal paraphrasing, not quoting. (It relies on the recipient knowing the convention.) We call them paraquotes. Anyway, that's my nomination for new typographic convention. It's already on the standard keyboard, at least in the US.

  48. Mabon said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 8:23 am

    re: Garbanzo
    "Sometimes in instant messaging I use tildes (~) to signal paraphrasing, not quoting. (It relies on the recipient knowing the convention.) We call them paraquotes. Anyway, that's my nomination for new typographic convention. It's already on the standard keyboard, at least in the US."

    I believe that my college roommate (with the triple quotes; see above) would approve of that as the new convention.
    I do.

  49. Mark Eli Kalderon said,

    January 20, 2009 @ 12:57 am

    Another blog devoted to mendacity quotes http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/. Is punctuation prescriptivism the same as grammatical prescriptivism? Or is it a separate phenomenon?

  50. Andrew Brown said,

    January 21, 2009 @ 2:46 am

    Linda the Copyeditor: It's only lying if the reader understands it to be a direct quotation, and English newspaper readers don't. I agree that it would be lying to Americans, who read with a different convention.

    But I actually came to point out that the greengrocers' apostrophe is not the same phenomenon at all. It is used to refer to apostrophe's as plural marker's which used to be confined to market stall's but with the progress of illiteracy are now found in shop windows and menus everywhere. At the same time, the possessive apostrophes are disappearing.

  51. Roberta Wedge said,

    January 21, 2009 @ 10:31 am

    A rule of thumb for UK newspaper article believability:
    Quote marks in the headline are bad news; quotes in the body are the true test.

    I read this advice a long time ago in an article by a senior British journalist whose name escapes me (perhaps Andrew Marr?) and I have found it works admirably.

    And of course, as others have pointed out, the person who writes the headline is not usually the one who wrote the article.

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  53. akash said,

    March 6, 2014 @ 3:48 am

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if people consider women with higher levels of a particular hormone to be more attractive, then there is a link, however tenuous, between the hormone and the characteristics attributed to the more attractive.

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