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?