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Air Quotes

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"[The quote marks] surround words that can be legally disputed."

"I 'believe' you, too. See the quotations I'm making with my claw hands? It means I DON'T believe you!"
Bad Cop, The LEGO Movie

Air Quotes are the act of making it visually apparent that a certain word was put inside quotation marks during one's speech. One can accomplish this by raising their hands and flexing and unflexing their index and middle fingers while leaving the others folded. "Quote, whatever they said, unquote" can also be heard. It's almost always used in a sarcastic context.

Since the gesture imitates a certain written mark, it can create a bit of a Fridge Logic if the character doing it comes from a culture that doesn't use this mark in their writing.

A subtrope of Sarcasm Mode. Compare Scare Quotes.


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  • There's a wireless commercial in which a salesperson for a competitor uses air quotes when he mentions whenever minutes. The customer lampshades the trope, so the salesperson tries to hide the air quotes. The customer still notices them.


    Comic Books 
  • In NYX, Kiden uses air quotes while assuring her brother that, yes, those drugs he scored for her were "the bomb".
  • In Preacher, while undergoing a prolonged Villainous Breakdown, Herr Starr shoots through a stack of papers prepared by his minion Hoover yelling "Improper use of inverted commas, Hoover! Improper use of inverted commas!". When his other lackey Featherstone tries to explain to Hoover what those are using air quotes, Starr yells at her because he hates that.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) mentions "making a hand gesture for quotation marks" on a list of "A Hundred Things that Bug Me."
  • In one Apartment 3-G strip, Margo sarcastically refers to Tommie's friends Lucy and Ted as "The perfect couple", making air quotes as she does so. This led to Memetic Mutation on The Comics Curmudgeon site as "Finger-Quotin' Margo".
  • Walter's reaction to Jeremy's claims to study downstairs with his girlfriend Sarah in Zits. Jeremy even name-drops the trope.
    Jeremy: "Dad, stop making air-quotes!"
    Walter: "Sorry." [Air-quotes the "sorry" part]

    Fan Works 
  • In The Mysterious Case of Neelix's Lungs, Captain Stadi uses air-quotes when chewing out Crewman Gerron Enek for trying to make modifications to Voyager's navigation systems without getting permission and while the ship was traveling at warp.
    Captain Stadi: Well, your "help" (air quotes) is going to cost us a day and a half of repair time before we can even go anyplace!
  • A couple chapters of The Translation in Blood consist of letters back and forth between Hannah Shepard, Councilor Sparatus, and eventually Commander Shepard. In one message to her mother, Commander Shepard complains indignantly about Sparatus using air-quotes on her in the canon incident that went memetic, a gesture that Sparatus apparently picked up from Hannah (and it drove Shepard nuts when Hannah did it to her).
  • In the epilogue of The Vow, Lord Hong makes this gesture about Lord Shen's "death".
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: From Magic Lesson:
    "I believe -that-," Jadeite lectured, smirking behind the force-bubble that protected him like a red-smeared windscreen, "is a sufficient demonstration of why we don't just ignore the baby steps and skip ahead." He was talking to the hazy black column of energy that crackling in the centre of the bare room, signing mock quotation marks with his fingers at the last part.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco manages to do this with his hooves after being turned into a llama.
    Kuzco: Okay, I've got to get back to the palace. Yzma's got this... "secret lab"... I'll just snap my fingers and order her to change me back!
  • In The Road to El Dorado, the villain Tzekel-Kan uses these when he sicks a panther statue on Miguel and Tulio, sarcastically emphasising "Divinity" towards them.
    "Now everyone will know the truth of your 'divinity'!"
  • In The LEGO Movie, when Good Cop/Bad Cop is interrogating Emmet, he uses air quotes to sarcastically say that he believes him. Said air quotes are enacted by awkwardly rotating his claw hands.
    Bad Cop: I "believe" you too. See the quotations I'm making with my claw hands? It means I DON'T believe you!
  • In The Lorax (2012), Onceler does this when being confronted by Lorax about cutting down all the Truffula trees.
    Onceler: Look, if you've got a problem with what I'm doing, why haven't you used your, quote-unquote, "powers" to stop me?
  • In Shrek, Fiona asks Shrek and Donkey about Lord Farquaad; after the two crack some jokes about Farquaad's short stature, Fiona tells them that they are just jealous because they cannot measure up to a great ruler like Farquaad. Shrek responds to this while doing the air quotes that she may do the "measuring" when she meets him tomorrow.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery:
    • Dr. Evil does this while explaining one of his evil plans to his staff, using Air Quotes where the text shows quotes. Watch it here.
      Dr. Evil: Back in the '60s I developed a weather changing machine which was in essence a sophisticated heat beam which we called a "laser". Using these "lasers" we punch a hole in the protective layer around the world, which we call the "ozone layer".
    • This carries over into the sequels, including any mention of the word "laser". In a deleted scene from the second film available on DVD, Dr. Evil claims that he invented finger quotes.
  • Paranormal Prison: Park Ranger Shtog does this when he's taking the group to death row, which has apparently had the most "sightings".


    Live-Action TV 
  • Joey in Friends doesn't understand how these are meant to be used. During a falling out with Ross he keeps accidentally making himself look worse by using them when he's trying to apologise.
  • In Mock the Week, the stand-up challenge of S07E09 gives us the following:
    Stewart Francis: Just because I have arthritis, doesn't mean I can't live a... (raises his hands) ..."normal"— Oh. (freezes wincing, his bent fingers getting stuck)
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Ziggzagged. Not only Taiga Hanaya usually mocks people with one handed quote while he is holding either a gun or gashat in the other hand, he is making english quotes on japanese sentences.
    • Nico Saiba and Emu Hojo used both hands when mocking someone note  like this. Still english quotes on japanese sentences.
  • Saturday Night Live: Chris Farley's "Weekend Update" character Bennett Brauer air quotes for most of his segment. In one memorable episode he does so many air quotes he actually takes off. Then the wires holding him up get tangled.
    Bennett Brauer: Thought you'd seen the last of old Bennett, perhaps? Thought the network bigwigs would have sent Bennett and his negative "Q rating" on a slow boat China? Well.. maybe I don't "look the part." I'm not "svelte."I don't "look comfortable on camera,"I'm not "sobby". I don't "understand what's going on in the news." I'm not "likeable" I don't "get along with people," when I go to work, I don't "make eye contact." I guess I don't "fit the mold." I don't "wear the latest clothes" or, even ones that don't "reek!" I don't "change my underwear," I'm not "buff." I don't have "firm breasts" I don't "exercise." And when I do sweat, I don't "shower." I'm not "spic-and-span" I don't "clean the area between my crotch and legs.". But, for the time being, I guess the network "enforcers" are opting for my approach, until Joe Consumer tells them he'd rather get his two cents from commentators who don't "make babies cry" and don't "drink maple syrup straight from the bottle" and don't [as he makes the quotes sign with his fingers, wires pull him in the air to create the illusion that he's made the gesture enough times to make him airborne] "leave old, dried-up deodorant cakes under their arm for weeks at a time" and, uh.. I'm flying. I'm flying! I'm flying! [the wires get caught in the lights atop the Update set, as Chris Farley hangs little more than three feet above the floor] Holy Schnikes!
    • And finally, anchor Kevin Nealon caps it off perfectly:
      Kevin Nealon: Maybe the cables didn't "clear the lights", ladies and gentlemen!
  • On Shake it Up, Deuce accidentally hurts himself whilst doing these.
  • Supernatural: When Castiel returns to the Winchesters for the first time in a year at the beginning of season 6, he exasperatedly tells them that he's been too busy to be keeping up any kind of people skills, proving his point by misusing quotation marks in the process:
    Castiel: Sam. Dean. My "people skills" are "rusty". Pardon me, but I have spent the last "year" as a multi-dimensional wavelength of Celestial intent.
  • The Suite Life on Deck: London does these without even knowing what they stand for.
  • On 30 Rock, "Dr." Spaceman is legally required to put quotes around "Dr.", including when he says it (via air quotes).
  • In A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Stephen Fry uses air quotes when saying "A Bit of Fry and Laurie". On one occasion, during a skit where he's supposed to have killed Hugh Laurie, who then came back as a ghost in a white suit, he also uses air brackets for "A Bit of Fry and Laurie (Deceased)"
  • In the opening spiel of one Room 101 episode, Nick Hancock referred to things we all hate, and gave a couple of words as examples, using air quotes for each of them. His final one was "People who do 'this' all the time when they're talking."
  • In "Superstar Sabotage: Heat 2," on Cutthroat Kitchen, Justin flashes these when Marcel uses colorful language to describe his "oatmeal cookie" to the judge that isn't really an oatmeal cookie.
  • Broad City:
    • In "Coat Check," Kelly Ripa makes these with one hand while saying, "A lot of people think that because I'm on the 'Morning Show' that I have to be, like, America's 'good girl.'"
    • In "Twaining Day":
    Trey: But before I knew it, you quit because you "won Powerball."
    Abbi: I didn't win Powerball.
    Trey: Yeah, I know. That's why I did "this." They're called "air quotes."
    Abbi: Does everybody know?
    Trey: I think so. Air quotes are pretty big now.
  • On an episode of iCarly Carly pointed out a character doing this.
    Carly: Why the airquotes?
  • On Monk, a hot dog vendor tells Lt. Disher that his hot dogs are made of "meat". He explains that he is required by law to put it in quotes. Later, Monk tells one of the vendor's employees it's been a "pleasure" talking to him.
  • On Impractical Jokers, Murr is required to misuse air quotes while at a networking event ("I work 'in' pharmaceuticals"), then air quote without talking.

    Music Videos 
  • Taylor Swift in the video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together".
    We hadn't seen each other in a month
    When you said you needed "space." (What?)

    Video Games 
  • Used in Black Mesa by the scientist who explains to Gordon why the soldiers sent to rescue them are indiscriminately shooting everyone instead.
    Scientist: Well, so much for the government. Their idea of "containment" is to kill everyone associated with the project!
  • In Mass Effect 2, the turian Councillor makes sarcastic air quotes ("Ah yes, 'Reapers'...") when dismissing your claims of an army of robotic Eldritch Abominations making their way towards the Milky Way. This quickly became a Memetic Hand Gesture among the players, as literally the first thing that happens in Mass Effect 3 is the Reapers descending upon the galaxy and tearing it a new one. Part of what makes this funny is the fact that turians only have three fingers, so he's only able to represent two apostrophes instead of four.
  • In Octodad: Dadliest Catch, the Chef does this when bringing the news of Octodad's disappearance to his family. His intent being, of course, making them aware of the fact that Octodad is an octopus.
    Chef: Excuse me, ma'am! I have bad news about your "husband"...
  • XCOM 2 has Dr. Tygan list a few alien species, miming the quotes around one:
    Tygan: Sectoid. Muton. Even the species our soldiers refer to as "Berserker".
  • Not for Broadcast: In Day 296, Jeremy Donaldson does this with both hands when he's talking to Andy the Community Cohesion Officer while holding him and Jenny at gunpoint.
    Jeremy: Andy, your turn, make yourself fucking useful. How many people have you brought in for "consultations", just because they weren't carrying, or didn't have, Team Membership Cards?
  • World of Warcraft: One quest in post-Cataclysm Hillsbrad Foothills involves the player recovering Forsaken camp "supplies" from the Murloc-infested coastline.
    The long stretch of coastline directly south of our position that extends from west to east is known as the Western Strand. Along the Western Strand, you will find two things: Murlocs and our stolen "supplies."
    <Keyton puts his hands in the air and makes quotation marks with his fingers.>

    Web Comics 
  • In Nerf NOW!!, Shepard throws the air quotes back in Sparatus' face.
  • In Homestuck, when Dave says he's "stepping out to do a thing" to avoid an awkward conversation with Karkat,
  • Darths & Droids: Used in Episode IV, when Leia and Darth Vader first meet (she refers to them as "Lord" Vader).
    Darth Vader: Did you just air quote me?
    Leia: "No."
    Darth Vader: Take her "away".
  • In Girl Genius Tarvek uses air quotes to mock the purportedly inescapable death trap he's just watched someone easily escape:
    Tarvek: Oh, by the way nice "death trap."
  • A mild Running Gag in Housepets! is the one-armed wolf "Four Finger Discount" Jack making air quotes - and the quote marks in his speech bubble not closing.
  • Rusty and Co.: In Level 8: #92, Mimic tries to do them, but can only do a pale imitation, due to not having hands. As Roxy points out in the last panel:
    Roxy: ... Are you trying to do air-quotes?
    Mimic: I punctuate th' best I can, okay?
  • Questionable Content: The Comically Serious robot Bubbles doesn't even need to do the gesture, usually when she's delivering some fragment of Sophisticated as Hell diction:
    Faye: How do you do that thing where I can hear the quotes around a phrase?

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: When Spoony pretends to be Linkara for an April Fool's Episode, he reviews the first Star Wars comics, which were released before A New Hope came out. One of the differences was The Force was always in quotes, and Spoony says you could almost see the air quotes Obi-Wan was making when he spoke about it.
  • Freshy Kanal:
    • In "Bear Grylls vs. Steve Irwin", while the subtitles doesn't add any quote marks, Grylls makes air quotes when admitting Irwin made some "valid" opinions about nature, implying he doesn't think highly of Irwin's words.
    • When playing Greek Chorus in "Loki vs. Count Olaf", Lemony Snicket makes air quotes when calling Loki's lines against Olaf as "quick quips", implying he doesn't think highly of them despite opining that Olaf has been burned.
  • Done by both Mark and Jay in a Map Men episode, when they mention the story of Stuart Hill, "who, in February 2011, 'founded' the 'country' of Forvik."
  • Played with in the Scott The Woz episode reviewing Devil's Third. Instead of the traditional hand gesture, Scott holds up two pieces of paper with giant quotation marks drawn on them, when he mentions the game's "plot".
  • The Zero Punctuation Cyberpunk Double Review of Dex and Invisible, Inc. opened with Yahtzee going overboard with these. Since his hands are normally featureless free-floating white circles, this necessitated sprouting a sudden pair of fingers from each one.
    Good cyber-morning to all you "script kiddies" and "leet haxors" out there, "surfing" the "information superhighway" like a bunch of "fucking wankers".

    Western Animation 
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Pepper uses air quotes when talking about her father's suspicions that Obadiah Stane caused the "accident" that killed Tony's dad.
  • Coverton on the Monsters vs. Aliens TV series does air quotes, then tries to pass them off as "helpful bunnies".
  • In an episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey Jake Spidermonkey did this repeatedly with many different synonyms to hit the point home of how irresponsible he is.
  • The ponies in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic manage this gesture by flipping their hooves.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Kid-Kart Derby", Jet makes air quotes when saying the word "winning".
  • In Rick and Morty, a robot Morty made by Rick uses "quote mode" when discussing Beth's divorce with Jerry.
    Robot Morty: I'm getting better grades when you and dad were "Quote Mode" staying together for the kids. "End Quote Mode"
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Patrick does this during the Season 7 episode "Yours, Mine and Mine":
      (SpongeBob dances with a Happy Meal toy)
      Patrick: Am I interrupting?
      SpongeBob: Oh, hi, Patrick. Have you met my new toy?
      Patrick: Don't you mean our new toy?
      SpongeBob: Our new toy?
      Patrick: It came from the meal that we're "sharing".
    • Squidward in "Imitation Krabs", when he meets Plankton's robot replica of Krabs.
      Squidward: You're not Mr. Krabs.
      Robot Krabs: Hey, why don't you take the rest of the day off?
      Squidward: Ha-ha! Well, whatever you say, "Mr. Krabs".
    • In "Bossy Boots", SpongeBob tells Pearl that he'll pretend to "fire" her after he was sent by Mr. Krabs to actually fire her, and finding out she was actually trying to get fired.
    • In The Movie, Mindy does this around the word "crown" after her father King Neptune places the cushion the royal crown was laying on on his head, making him realize that someone had stolen the crown - Plankton, to be more specific.
  • Stick Girl: In "Generation X", the guy interviewing Stick Girl uses air quotes a couple times.
  • Total Drama:
    • To get the final campers to fall asleep, Chris opts to read them a book about the history of Canada in "The Big Sleep". The first chapter concerns the beaver, which he reads out loud to be a national symbol and a "damn" fine hat, making air quotes at the pun. This concerns the Canadian version of the episode, while in the censored American version Chris reads the beaver to be a "real" fine hat. The air quotes are still there, but make no sense in context.
    • Cody won't leave Gwen alone in "Not Quite Famous", despite his claim he respects her privacy. As she happens to be writing in her diary, he says that he knows it's not for his eyes and, as he makes air quotes to indicate his use of uncharacteristic slang, that "it's cool, brah."
    • Courtney uses air quotes during a confessional in "The Sucky Outdoors" to emphasize how alleged her "alleged cuddling" with Duncan as caught on camera in the morning actually is.
    • During a rant in the confessional in "Trial by Tri-Armed Triathlon", Duncan hits on the topic of Leshawna's improved opinion of him. As he incredulously puts it with air quotes, she thinks he's "a nice guy" and he thinks she's quite wrong about that.
    • In utter frustration over her fellow contestants' wackiness in "Camp Castaways", Heather states that at least she's got her "game on". Gwen repeats the last two words with air quotes in matching frustration that no one realizes their situation is too dire to still think of it as a game.
    • In a confessional in "One Flu Over the Cuckoos", Leshawna explains her lactose intolerance by saying that she and dairy "do not agree", making air quotes as she speaks.
    • As he makes air quotes, Justin explains to Lindsay in "Ocean's Eight - Or Nine" that to "crack open" a vault is a figure of speech and that it means to open the vault by working out the code.
    • Sierra tries to interview Noah in "Celebrity Manhunt's TDA Reunion Show", but he ignores her in favor of a phone call. Trying to keep the flow going, she turns to the camera and theorizes that Noah landed himself an important job in "the industry", adding a hint of sarcasm by using air quotes.
    • After Heather whipped Courtney during the previous challenge, Courtney wants to be rid off her in "Broadway, Baby!". Gwen promises her vote, prompting Courtney to quip that they should whip Heather off. In the confessional, Heather using air quotes as she mockingly repeats "whip me off" before explaining why that won't happen.
    • In "The Am-AH-Zon Race", Gwen remarks that a challenge in the Amazon Rainforest should be a lucky break for Team Amazon. Her team turns against her because teams that call themselves lucky always meet with disaster. When at a fork in the road some time later, Heather sarcastically suggests that Gwen decides which way to go because she's the one who feels "lucky", making air quotes as she speaks.
    • During a confessional in "Bigger! Badder! Brutal-er!", Brick mentions all the cadet training medals he earned for three years in a row: one for teamwork, one for bed-making, one for "flag-folding", and one for letters home to mom. He makes air quotes when he mentions the one for "flag-folding".
    • Zoey is done with Mike's apparent two-timing with Anne Maria. So when he tells Zoey he likes her hair in "Runaway Model", she retorts with air quotes that his "character" Vito probably likes Anne Maria's hair.
    • In response to being slathered with gruel tossed inside their cabin to serve as breakfast in "Food Fright", Courtney heads to the confessional to document her opinion that starving to death would be more humane than Chef's "bed-and-breakfast thing", her criticism of which she highlights with air quotes.
    • During a confessional in "A Blast From the Past", Jasmine notes that Shawn's too much of a survival specialist to get "lost" in the woods, performing air quotes to denote her worry something truly bad happened to him.
    • During a confessional in "Sky Fall", Shawn shares the story of how his uncle went bankrupt after he opened a tanning salon. A big part of why he got no clients is due to the terrible name, which Shawn emphasizes with air quotes: "Bernie's Tanning Salon".

    Real Life 
  • Some languages avert this in that they don't even have native " " quotes. Therefore, it makes the use of this schtick unnatural, foreign to local culture. Try to air Japanese quotes note , and you'll look like you're checking out scenery for photography.
  • Ellen DeGeneres cleverly used this trope in an on-stage response to a homophobic priest who had written about her and put the word "marriage" in scare quotes.
    Ellen DeGeneres: First of all, let's just break this down: I'm not "married"; I'm married. That's all.


Video Example(s):


Who's Next?

King George III, reluctant to describe the fledgling USA as a country, uses air quotes when using the word.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / AirQuotes

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