I was reading an article Meet the Artist Who Blows Things Up for a Living

in 4th paragraph the author says

When I visit Cai (as everyone calls him, pronouncing it “Tsai”) in his spare East Village Manhattan studio with a big red door and a feng shui stone lion guarding the entrance within, we sit at a glass table flanked by wall-size wood screens: his gunpowder “drawings.”

I didn't understand why author puts drawings in double quotes. If you read the article, he has used it for many other words like “signs”, “crop circle”. My question is what the intends by putting the words in double quotes?

  • They are known as 'scare quotes,' quotation marks placed around a word or phrase to imply that it may not signify its apparent meaning or that it is not necessarily the way the quoting person would express its concept. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scare_quotes
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2013 at 6:30
  • For the colon use, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colon_%28punctuation%29
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2013 at 6:37
  • I removed the second question about colon use because it is completely unrelated to the first question. Since this is a Q&A site, it is expected that each post contains just one question.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Mar 26, 2013 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


The quotation marks are signalling unusual usage:

Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense.* [CMoS]

A drawing is normally made with crayon, chalk or pen on papaer. Not with gunpowder on a wood screen. Hence the "what I (or the artist) will now call a drawing".

The colon is used to let the viewer know that his wall sized screens are the drawings mentioned

A crop circle is flattened corn on a field, but one of the "drawings" resemble a crop circle so it is in quotation marks

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.