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On NPR this morning I heard a newscaster say a phrase something like this: (paraphrased)

… Bank declined to interview, but in a phone call said, "We are making (quote) every effort (unquote) to …"

I assume that the bank spokesperson didn't actually say "quote" and "unquote", and that that was added by the journalist. It seems to me that the journalist (consciously or unconsciously) wanted to communicate his own doubt about the meaning of "every effort".

I'm curious what this journalistic/rhetorical device might be called. Is there a word for it?

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If that's exactly what was said, then I agree with @Jay that it sounds like there may be some mis-quoting going on. But did the announcer perhaps say "...said they were making (quote) every effort (unquote) ..."? That is, did the bank spokesman say all those words, or just the two quoted? –  Monica Cellio Nov 16 '11 at 18:52
@Monica: Interesting point. As stated, the "we are making ..." is enclosed in quote marks, which indicates that it is part of the quote. If that's what they meant, they should have written, "... in a phone call said that they were making 'every effort' to ..." But I wouldn't rule out the possibility that that was the intent. –  Jay Nov 18 '11 at 19:23
@Jay, I was wondering if it could be either sloppiness by the radio announcer or a slight mis-hearing by the OP. –  Monica Cellio Nov 18 '11 at 19:49
When a radio announcer reads a quote it's hard to tell if it's a direct quote or a paraphrase. The way this particular newscaster read it, I was pretty sure it was a quote-within-a-quote. –  kojiro Nov 18 '11 at 19:54
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If the bank spokesperson altered his tone when he said "every effort", then it is common in English to use quotes to indicate that the speaker was conveying that the words were meant ironically.

If, as I think more likely in this case, the bank spokesman did NOT alter his tone of voice, then I believe the correct term for this is "misquoting" and "bias". The fact that you don't like or agree with what a speaker said does not mean that you can legitimately alter the quote! It doesn't matter how guilty you think the bank is, you can't quote the bank president as confessing to a crime when he is, in fact, claiming complete innocence.

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