Saturday, September 22, 2007

ok, this is fascinating

I'm reprinting this story from Elsi's blog, which Elsi alerted me to via email.

In English and Danish (among others) quotation marks indicate doubt. A “free” vacation will cost you; “fresh” fish isn’t. Some other languages, however, such as German, use quotation marks for emphasis—which is what too many English-writers think it means. During WWII, the Nazis in Copenhagen forced the newspaper to print their propaganda. Members of the underground placed it all within quotation marks. Danes read it and thought, “Aha! I certainly won’t believe that!” Germans read it and thought, “Wonderful! They’re emphasizing our story!”

This is a case of punctuation confusion serving a rhetorical purpose. I love it!

11 comments:

Mom2fur said...

Those Danes were pretty smart and clever cookies!

Jeff said...

oh, I see. Everyone who comments on here defending the perpetrators is a Nazi. It all makes sense now.

bethany said...

it was going to happen .

Jeff said...

Wow, I had no idea. I don't know whether to feel ashamed or proud!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I understand that in German, all Nouns have to be capitalized -- which I have seen carried over into English, sometimes across the Generations.

It looks very odd, and as a Journalist, it bugs me to no End, but I always felt somewhat better, knowing that there was a Reason. Perhaps I can begin to understand "Quotation Marks" now, too.

Anonymous said...

sorry to say that, but this is simply not true. i am german, and we, too, use quotation marks for a) quotations and b) sarcasm/irony/doubt. even here people sometimes get it wrong just like on the signs you collect here, but its still wrong. "hot" coffee is cold in germany, too, as opposed to hot coffee. i don't know about the danish press, though.

bethany said...

well, that's just disappointing. But thanks for clearing it up.

woodsielady said...

just wanted to second anonymous' explanation (i.e. quotation marks in german = quote/sarcasm), but I think I remember seeing newspaper clippings from thirty or more years ago where quotation marks were (correctly or not)actually used to emphasize something. So, perhaps the meaning of quotation marks in the german language just changed over the years?

woodsielady said...

just wanted to second anonymous' explanation (i.e. quotation marks in german = quote/sarcasm), but I think I remember seeing newspaper clippings from thirty or more years ago where quotation marks were (correctly or not)actually used to emphasize something. So, perhaps the meaning of quotation marks in the german language just changed over the years?

Subrata said...

I find in many reports (non-legal) people use double-quotation markes for abbreviations like
-Apple Pie Limited ("APL" or "the Company")
-Loan Aggreement ("LA") etc.

Don't you think these quotation marks are unnecessary?

-Aaron- said...

I'm curious about (the second) Anonymous' post and woodsielady's seconding thereof.  Regardless of what the real story is, proper German quotes look a bit different than in English and they also vary depending on the region where they're used.

Anführungszeichen = quotation marks, or, more literally, marks that lead up [to something, i.e. a quote].  Anführungszeichen look like this: „ “

Also the term Gänsefüßchen is used for the same phenomenon, meaning ~ "little geesefeet".

In novels, at least in Austria and Germany, often the French guillemets are used, which look like this: » «

In Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and France (Though the written Anführungszeichen remain the same in the former two as in Germany & Austria, according to the article linked below--and i seem to remember from my Spanish classes also in Spanish) in novels the guillemets looks like this, with their tips pointed outward: « »

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anf%C3%BChrungszeichen