Does the following headline use quote marks correctly? Why is just a single word in quotes?

Jaques Derrida 'dies'

  • Is this a headline somewhere?
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:24
  • Yes, it is a headline
    – superato
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:25
  • OK. Hopefully my edit makes that clear and asks the right question.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:31
  • Do you have an answer?
    – superato
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:33
  • 1
    Aside from the other points raised, it's not unusual for single quotes to be used in headlines, since in bold type the double quotes can seem oppressive (vs simply scary).
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


This headline comes from the Onion, a satirical publication.

The use of scare quotes around dies in the headline is supposed to be a funny nod to Derrida's focus on (and deconstruction of) language.

Apparently the use of scare quotes in referring to Derrida and his work has become a meme (see the first entry here where multiple words, including the preposition of is in scare quotes, as well as the second entry which refers to Derrida as the "father of the scare quote").

  • Oh yeah, post-structuralism etc.
    – superato
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:44
  • @Silenus ... +1 for a better explication of the humorous intent than mine. I got hung up in the grammar-and-mechanics issue. (Vide, below...)
    – Rob_Ster
    Apr 10, 2016 at 20:49

The august authority grammarnook.com - Rule 4b - declares this to be an "invalid usage."

Quotation marks may be used to indicate that the word or phrase so enclosed is intended tonhave a special or unusual meaning. In the mind of The Authorities the right to convey this indication belongs to double quotes. (Ironic tone intended...)

Just as the usual application of quotation marks indicates that someone other than the writer's primary persona made the utterance, so does this usage serve to alienate the quoted speech from the main speaker, as if to say,

"I didn't mean to say that Derrida actually dies, but that's how it might be said in a manner of speaking"

This makes sense, of course, since Derrida died in 2004, and to speak of his dying in the present tense and alienating the event with any variety of quotes is probably just the thing to expect from, of, or about Derrida.

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