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Air quotes

From Academic Kids

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Air quotes

Air quotes refers to the action of using one's fingers to make quotation marks in the air during speech. The practice of gesticulating punctuation is typically done with both hands held up, with the index and middle fingers on each hand curled down during the phrase being "quoted"; a common variant is to temporarily curl the fingers at the beginning and end of the phrase.

An early adopter of this action was Ben Elton, who frequently used it during his stand-up comedy routines.

This is often used to express some degree of satire, sarcasm, irony or euphemism.

In Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, his 1999 collection of short stories, David Foster Wallace coined the playful term "finger flexion" to refer to air quotes. In the "interview," the "hideous man" in question pretentiously overuses air quotes, which are identified in brackets as "flexion of upraised fingers to indicate tone quotes." From there the interpolations are shortened to "flexion of upraised fingers" to "finger flexion" to, finally, the inevitable "f.f." — which then threaten to overwhelm the transcript of the interview. At one juncture the bracketed designation is "sustained and increasingly annoying f.f."

Among the actors who have lampooned this behavior:

There is also an entire Friends episode based around Joey not understanding how air quotes work.

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