Please explain “finger quotes” in this passage:
“There was a lot of drinking. At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to have a beer to celebrate Halloween or the end of finals. There was always some reason to ‘celebrate,’” he says, using finger quotes to accentuate the word celebrate. “But soon, it wasn’t just a beer. It was a lot of beers. And I wasn’t celebrating. I was coping. And all of a sudden, I realized that I was drinking way too much just trying to get a handle on all my stress and mood problems.”
He raised his fingers by his ears and formed quotation marks (“...”) to bring attention to the word “celebrate”.
Well, with context, we can infer that the speaker doesn’t mean “celebrate” seriously. Given the context, we know that there were no real causes for celebration. Guys just wanted to drink – and drink.
And drink a lot. They just made all sorts of excuses, saying, for example: “Let’s have a beer to celebrate Halloween” or “Let’s have a drink, the exams are over” or “It’s Friday. Thank god it’s Friday,” and things like that.
Anyways, “finger quotes” are also known as “air quotes”, because you raise your fingers up in the air to make the gesture for others to see clearly. To do it, you raise your hands to the ear, one on each side, and hold up the index and middle fingers of each hand and twitch them once or twice – or thrice, sometimes – to simulate quotation marks (“…”).
In written form, if a word appears in quotation marks, it sometimes has a purpose of indicating that the word has a special meaning. For example, if a painter is more known for being a clown in celebrity circles than for his art, then his “art” probably doesn’t amount to much. In speech, people make these finger curling motions to send a similar message, indicating that they don’t really mean it when they utter a certain word or short remark. Usually they want to indicate they’re being funny or sarcastic. In other words, don’t take that particular “word” or “remark” seriously or at face value.
Using the above mentioned painter again for example, if people say they all love his “art” along with finger quotes while winking their eyes and making faces, they really don’t mean for you to take them seriously. Rather, they probably mean to say that artist is a joke.
For another example, if an American says with a straight face that they “truly believe Donald Trump will make America great again”, then they probably support the new US president and think he’s the real deal. If, however, they say: “Of course Donald Trump will make America great again, because he is Donald Trump”, using air quotes both times when the name of Donald Trump is mentioned, you know they probably don’t take the former businessman-turned-reality TV star too seriously.
Or should I perhaps have used a better example than Donald Trump, wink-wink?
Well, what’s done is done. Here are a few recent and hopefully all better media examples by way of making up:
1. If you were alive and cognizant prior to the 1990s, you probably remember that nutrition labels on foods looked different; they didn’t have percent-daily values based on a 2,000-calorie diet. That’s because the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was signed into law in 1990, requiring manufacturers to be more transparent about their dietary claims -- for example, if a yogurt’s going to be touted as high-protein, consumers would know exactly how much protein is in a serving.
These new labels also made it easier for people to track their daily fat and salt intake. “Because the allowable [saturated fat and sodium] limits would vary according to the number of calories consumed, the FDA needed benchmarks for average calorie consumption,” writes Marion Nestle in Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.
Why land on 2,000 calories?
Doctors didn’t just pull it out of thin air, did they? Of course not! They used (finger quotes) SCIENCE. Although a male college athlete’s caloric needs vastly differ from those of a postmenopausal woman, for example, there's no way all those different benchmarks would fit on the side of a cereal box. So the FDA decided to go for a middle-ground approach. “The FDA wanted a single number so their recommendations would be simple to follow, and also they did not want to encourage overeating,” Dr. Quebbemann says.
The FDA arrived at 2,000 using surveys of how much food people consumed per day, Dr. Quebbemann says. This ranged anywhere from 1,600 calories to 3,000 calories. It averaged the data and came up with a single number, which was… not 2,000. The FDA initially proposed setting the daily value at 2,350 calories, which gives you at least an extra snack, but decided on lowering the amount to 2,000 after asking for public comments and deciding that anything above 2,000 might encourage people to overeat. Which probably isn’t a bad assumption, knowing Americans, even though going down to 2,000 is a significant reduction.
“It’s a bit like measuring the weight of everyone in America, determining the healthy weight of all adults in the United States averaged over the entire population and across the sexes and ethnic groups, and then saying that a healthy person in the USA ‘should weigh’ the average weight,” Dr. Quebbemann says. Which sounds like a terrible idea, but an interesting premise for the next dystopian YA franchise.
So how many calories should you actually eat?
First, the bad news: it’s really hard to judge an individual’s daily caloric needs. There are three reasons for that, Dr. Quebbemann says: first, it’s impossible to accurately estimate the volume of food without weighing everything; second, most food is largely composed of water, which has no calories; third, most people lie to themselves about how much they eat and fudge the data.
The good news? You don’t need to know how many calories you’re eating, as long as you follow one simple guideline: “If you’re getting fatter, you’re eating more calories than you need,” Dr. Quebbemann says. Though that’s probably not what you want to read on the side of a cereal box.
- WHY THE 2,000 CALORIES-PER-DAY RECOMMENDATION IS COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS, Thrillist.com, July 15, 2016.
2. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost the 2008 presidential race, sharply criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday for not pledging to accept the result of the November election.
McCain said the loser’s obligation to concede was about “respect.”
“I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance,” McCain said in a statement. “A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility. Whatever our differences we owe each other that respect, which we express by defending the democratic values and practices that protect us all.”
During Wednesday’s presidential debate, Trump was asked whether he would pledge to accept the election results despite his numerous claims that the system is “rigged” against him.
“I will look at it at the time,” he replied. On Thursday, Trump elaborated, saying he will accept the result ― if he wins.
McCain said accepting the will of the voters is an American tradition.
“I don’t know who’s going to win the presidential election,” McCain said. “I do know that in every previous election, the loser congratulates the winner and calls them, ‘my president.’ That’s not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It’s the American way.”
Citing no evidence, Trump has repeatedly questioned whether President Barack Obama can legitimately serve as president. He has publicly questioned whether Obama is really a U.S. citizen, called him as “your president” and used air quotes when referring to him as president.
In October 2008, as McCain and Obama were in the final stretch of their campaigns, the Arizona senator also spoke about the importance of accepting the result of the election.
“I’ve come out on both sides of elections. And I’ve never lost my confidence in the judgment of the American people. In the military, they work pretty hard to impress the chain of command on your thinking. And one way or another, on the fourth of November, word will come down from the top of the chain, and Sen. Obama and I will both receive our orders,” he said.
- John McCain Skewers Donald Trump For Refusing To Pledge To Accept Election Results, HuffingtonPost.com, October 20, 2016.
3. I live in a world of hooah, go to, can do and take no prisoners because if there is no pain, there is no gain. I live in the military world. I am currently a military spouse stationed overseas. I am also a veteran, a former army soldier. I grew up in this world. My parents are both retired military. I formally joined this world when I became a soldier and married this world when I married my husband, who has been in 18 years. This world is all I have known, the one I was born into when I was born on an Army post overseas. I was content with this world, understood all the rules and appreciated the black and white of it — that was until I was diagnosed with lupus.
Mind you, it took a few years to discover what was really wrong with me. There were all sorts of diagnoses, hospitalizations, misdiagnoses. This part of my journey is the same as many of us with a chronic disease. During my arduous journey, I came to realize a sad fact of my beloved world: it is a world of suck it up and shut up. Not only do we deal with the crushing symptoms of our illnesses, but then we are forced to deal with a culture of health care that is by its very nature not equipped or trained to evaluate, treat or understand the chronically ill autoimmune patient, and we are suffering for it.
At first I thought I was the only one. I had never heard of anyone else in my community with lupus or even an autoimmune disease. I noticed something right off the bat: my doctors started treating me differently. Even with my labs as proof, the whiplash of my providers’ relationship with me from when I was healthy and in for an occasional flu to baffling symptoms was shocking. I have had my share of eye rolls, to outright long sighs, to “Mrs. Hayden, what do you want me to do?” …um, diagnose me, fix me, be my doctor. Only with positive lab results was I given any sliver of respect in the military doctor’s office. My last internist told me on the side how he could not understand the rise in the diagnosis of “autoimmunes.” He used air quotes and raised eyebrows. He went on to imply it is catch-all diagnosis for the “crazy, lonely, complaining, hypochondriac” military spouses. While there are compassionate, caring providers in the military health care system, it is my experience they are few and far between.
To manage and deal with my illness I started support groups for my fellow spouses. I soon discovered the military program for dealing with illness within their ranks, the much toted EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program), was a catch-all mainly for family members with school-age children. There is still no support in place for chronically ill spouses. The program will go out of its way to help you conquer and overcome a treatable disease but has no sustainable systems in place for diseases that have no cure. So, in response I started support groups and came to realize my story was not at all unique.
It seems that the first line of treatment with military medicine is not to figure out what is wrong with us but to tell us to eat right, lose some weight and exercise. If our visits and complaints of sheer exhaustion and general malaise continue, step two is to hand out psychotropic drugs. These are to help is “manage our undiagnosed pain.” Rarely is there testing or follow-ups outside of “let me check your thyroid.” (God forbid you have a thyroid overlap.)
The idea of treating someone with a chronic illness sends panic into the hearts of the average military provider. These doctors live in a world of treat and release, and the very idea that this is not curable and they cannot med board us out is beyond the scope of their culture. We chronically ill spouses have to fight and argue and fight some more to get someone to listen to us.
- The Sad Truth About the Military and Chronic Illness, by Nonja Hayden, TheMighty.com, January 19, 2017.
About the author:
Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: email@example.com, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.
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