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Very similar to what you describe for written text is the use of air quotes when speaking. In my opinion, as air quotes mimic the typographic symbol of quotation marks, the ironic or discrediting use of quotation marks has to have come into play before air quotes did. This site is able to date back the use of air quotes to 1927. Of course one could argue ...


Scare quotes are often used in the same contexts where you might use the phrase so-called to indicate skepticism or sarcasm. It seems likely to me that this notation is a form of abbreviation of this, they both refer to the literal name that someone or something is called by. For more about so-called, see Does "so called" have a negative ...

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