Inferential Question – Inverted Commas and Italics

Inferential Question – Inverted Commas and Italics

1 Purpose of the Inverted Commas and Italics
• To show a contrast between the actual meaning and the contextual meaning of the word.

• To show a contrast between the expected effect and the actual effect of the word.

• To show a contrast between the attitude of the writer and that of the subject (which uses the word)

Example 1

One posh friend of mine remembers how, whenever her parents were invited, the mother’s ‘greatest friend’, a single man was invited as well; and the host ensured the trio was assigned connecting bedrooms. Everyone was in the know – including the cuckolded husband – but as long as the affair was conducted without fuss, no one felt in the least b it bothered.

Why is the phrase ‘greatest friend’ in inverted commas? [1]

Word Actual/Dictionary meaning Contextual meaning
‘greatest friend’ best friend
mother’s lover

Suggested Answer

• The single man is not really the best friend of the friend’s mother,
• but is in reality the mother’s lover.

Example 2

In the modern society, the make-up habit performs no positive function’, yet an element of magic persists. Each ‘new’ product holds the promise of otherwise unattainable beauty. No doubt many women subconsciously entertain such hopes, but this alone does not explain why make-up is so universal. In sophisticated societies, its use is an acquired and unquestioned habit, one which takes along time to learn, but though we should not under-estimate the power of habit, there are deeper social and psychological reasons for its mass unemployment.

Explain why the word ‘new’ is in inverted commas.

Word Actual/Dictionary meaning Contextual meaning
‘new’ a novel invention
product already existed in the market

Suggested Answer

• The inverted commas are used to signal the irony that the product is often packaged as a novel invention,
• but in reality it has already existed in the market.

Example 3

We could curb our involvement in world affairs, and religious radicals would still want to kill us for ‘corrupting’ their world with our movies, books, fast-food restaurants, blue jeans, ideas about women’s liberation.

Why does the author place the term ‘corrupting’ in inverted commas?

Word Writer’s View Subject’s View
‘corrupting’ American culture is not corrupting its world.

American culture is corrupting their world


The religious radicals/ Islamic fundamentalists believe that American culture is ‘corrupting’ their world.
However, the author does not disagree/ accept this view.

Example 4
The media are stretching the limits of every ethical and legal norm. Peephole journalism is on the rise. The pictures our media publishes during communal riots worsen the situation and make riot control extremely difficult and expensive. In cases of crime, pictures convict the suspect even if the courts acquit him later. The suspect and his or her family live with the stigma forever. Yet, for all their commitment to truth-telling, the media does not publish everything they know. Even where freedom of expression is conferred there are instances of voluntary waiver of such freedom which interferes with the free flow of information to the reader. The Hindu columnist Sevanti Ninan writes "But self-censorship in the Indian media is not just alive and well; it is growing. Self-censorship means that you have to read more than one newspaper, watch more than one news channel to get at the whole truth.”
Why does the writer put the word ‘whole’ in italics?

Word expected effect actual effect
‘whole’ The media report everything objectively
The media report news subjectively

The expected effect is that the media should be objective in reporting news but the actual effect is that it is partial as it does selective reporting.
The author wants to emphasize that the media does selective reporting/ is partial in reporting the news when it should be objective.

Example 5

No matter what you think of his politics or his personality, it is hard not to sympathize with President Clinton. The economy is booming, war is on the horizon, yet the press is rabid about sex in the White House. Of course, even in this ‘puritan’ culture, there are few who would insist that the President should be impeached because of his by now well-known sexual proclivities. Rather, the question is: Did he lie? The importance of this question was summarized by one Congressman who pointed out that if the President would lie about one thing, he would lie about another.

Why do you think the word ‘puritan’ is in inverted commas?

• ‘Puritan’ means living according to a strict moral or religious code/ having a strong tendency to avoid physical pleasure.
• The inverted commas suggest that the author implies that our society is actually far from being strict about physical pleasures itself.


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