Welcome to my page of quotations about using air quotes (gesturing quotation marks with one’s fingers), also known as finger quotes or quote-unquote. Enjoy!
Another reason for putting rabbit ears on a word is the growing popularity of skepticism: Those whose illusion is disillusionment revel in the use of the device that expresses disbelief and disavowal with four inverted commas, and trendy critics can even put quotation signs around a spoken word by wiggling two fingers of each hand. ~William Safire, On Language, 1980
“Air quotes” are:
B. Okay if used sparingly
~Jon Winokur, The Big Book of Irony, 2007 [Air quotes are “gestural irony,” per Winokur.
Bob and Betty… raise the middle and forefingers of both hands, momentarily forming twitching bunny ears — air quotes, the quintessential contemporary gesture that says, We’re not serious…. This is the era of the permanent smirk, the knowing chuckle, of jokey ambivalence as a way of life. This is the Irony Epidemic. ~Paul Rudnick & Kurt Andersen, “The Irony Epidemic,” in Spy, March 1989
Art in the age of air quotes requires a fellow smirker, someone else smart enough to get it. Irony is a group sport. ~Paul Rudnick & Kurt Andersen, “The Irony Epidemic,” in Spy, March 1989
We make quote fingers. Please, for the love of your knuckles, stop it. If you can’t, at least know that you’re supposed to say “quote, unquote,” not “quote, end quote.” (And if you must do this overseas, be aware of the local customs. In Germany, one hand goes up and the other goes down, mimicking the direction of the printed quotation marks they use. In France, they make sideways v’s to look like the guillemets they use to open and close quotations.) ~Martha Brockenbrough, “Do You Abuse Quotation Marks?,” 2009
Cox jiggled his fingers like quotation marks. ~Norman C. Chastain, After the Game, 2005
Neville had both hands in the air, fingers suspended in air quotes. Air quotes are something I’ve seen adults do when they’re trying to “relate.” They use “teen speak,” but they always act uncomfortably when they use it because they know damn well their youth is “spent.” And maybe they don’t like how they spent it, so every time they see a “young person” they get crabby and offended or smarmy and patronizing. ~Simmone Howell, Everything Beautiful, 2008
Not using it right, Joe. ~Ross to Joey, about his incorrect use of air quotes, Friends, “The One Where Emma Cries,” 2002, written by Dana Klein Borkow
Newsflash: air quotes are out. ~Mia King, Good Things, 2006