Air quotes and other social malformities


I’m at university studying to become a high school teacher.  Many of the subjects I take include an assessment component based on some sort of oral presentation to the class group.  This is not limited to the education subjects and so far has cropped up in 3 of my science subjects as well.  The philosophy behind these activities is that, as a teacher we will obviously have to present concepts to a group audience and we may as well start right now.


I’d like to define the action of air quotes as I perceive them.  But before looking at the gesture itself let’s get something out in the open.  I’m not a big fan of air quotes.  Or maybe “air quotes” is a better description.  I personally use “air quotes” less than once each year.  I’d be willing to swear to that figure on a stack of books which may or may not include the Bible, Talmud, Qur’an, and at least one publication supplied by Tom and written by L. Ron.

"Air quotes" (verb) – When stating something that is from a source other than yourself, or to artificially distance yourself from your own stupid opinions, raise both hands to shoulder height or slightly higher and roughly shoulder width apart.  Hold up both hands, palms facing away from you and slightly forward of vertical, with the pinky and ring fingers curled into the palms leaving the middle and index fingers relatively straight and pointing up and away from you.  The thumbs should remain relaxed which will see them assume an orientation similar to the index fingers, albeit a little shorter (as thumbs are wont to do).  The final part of the gesture is to simultaneously curl the middle and index fingers of both hands about half way to the fully closed position, normally twice.


In my Discrete Mathematics class today a young lady was giving her presentation.  She was quite articulate, but her nervousness manifested itself in the form of excessive hand gestures.  Many different gestures were in evidence but more disturbing than the almost constant flapping of her arms was the ineptitude with which she executed one of the gestures.  The “air quotes”, no less. 

How do you stuff up “air quotes” I here you ask?  It’s not a simple task to take such a simple task and turn it into a social activity as uncomfortable for your audience as audibly farting in an elevator.  But it can be done.  And it can be done several ways.  Sadly, some people can combine several ineptitudes to create a vortex of social discomfort that is impossible to pry yourself away from – just as compelling as looking as you drive past a car accident.

I don’t think I can generate descriptive prose to properly portray the actions I witnessed.  I have tried, but I break out in a sweat and start to shake.  To save myself the discomfort of reliving the horrific event too vividly I shall now give you a summative insight using short choppy phrases. 

“Air quotes” were executed:
            with hands between hip and sternum height.
            with all 4 fingers utilised in the curling component of the gesture.
            with up to 5 repetitions of the finger curling component of the gesture.
            occasionally with hands oriented towards each other, rather than forward.

You were warned.  She really is a wonderful lady, but there are some crimes that are unforgivable.


What else have you seen someone do completely out of context or so ineptly that it made you cringe?

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9 Responses to Air quotes and other social malformities

  1. ...And The Little Minion says:

    I was on my way to the ocean and stopped at a grocery store on the way in a town that I was driving through. On my way out of the grocery store (I was only inside for a couple minutes), I was stopped by a stranger and forced to endure horror! She performed not one, but two socially unacceptable behaviors that I was not a part of and desperately tried to pull away from as quickly as possible.
    1. She stopped me in the middle of the road in front of the grocery store. Although this is a parking lot, the strip in front of the grocery store is used by just about every car that drives in the lot trying to find a parking space. I don’t want to be the jerk holding up traffic, especially when the conversation could be moved a mere five feet away and in a safer zone.
    2. She taked inches from my face violating my personal bubble. I don’t know how people can go through 40+ years of life and not know what is considered an acceptable conversation distance.

  2. Tom Stormcrowe says:

    Hmmmm, my sister in law sent a birthday card to our mutual niece with a note in it telling her her parent’s were losers! OOPS!BY the way, why do I get the feeling you’ll make a truly excellent teacher?

  3. Laura says:

    I had a professor in school who was not american and had very little under standing of american culture he did lots of things that where not socially exceptable.  he counted off points on every finger, o by the time he reached point 2, he was flipping of the class. this happened daily.

  4. Courtney says:

    The DAY AFTER I read this entry, I was talking to a colleague at work who used air quotes, except he never curled his fingers.  Just used two straight fingers, and moved his hands up and down.  IT WAS HILARIOUS!!  And I had to call him on it, just because I had just laughed over this entry.

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