Antedating of "scare quotes"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 11 10:54:06 UTC 2013

First of all, let me congratulate Hugo on his many interesting antedatings.

Isn't this 1946 citation in a different sense from that in OED?  The signification of the OED lemma is that of 'a punctuation convention calling attention to a particular word or phrase.'  Hugo's 1956 citation, I think, denotes 'a quotation used to smear or distort the ideas of a (usually political) opponent.'  The latter meaning probably is common enough to merit mention in the OED.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Hugo [hugovk at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 3:14 AM
Subject: Antedating of "scare quotes"

"scare quotes" (OED: 1956)

Via Dan Bloom is a 1946 book by Carey McWilliams called Southern California: An Island on the Land. Page 298:

Intimidating notes were inserted in payroll envelopes, employees were directly threatened by their employers with discharge if they voted for Sinclair, and the best advertising brains in California were put to work culling scare-quotes from Mr. Sinclair's voluminous writings.

Google Books preview:

This edition is copyright 1946 and 1973 by McWilliams, but a search on Hathitrust appears to verify it in a 1946 edition:;view=1up;seq=15;q1=scare-quotes;start=1;size=10;page=search;orient=0


Also some interdatings would otherwise suggest it originated amongst British logical philosophers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. See


The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list