Quotes on Signs

Does anyone have any idea why this phenomenon is so common? What is the hidden message implied by the quotation marks? A nudge and a wink?

Captured (by cell phone) at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida.


  1. quitte Jan 28

    the quotation marks are used to mark words tht are not to be taken literally. in this case it means it’s forbidden to pick flowers,fruit or seed. the quotation marks together with the please make it look more friendly while still getting the message to the reader

  2. Andre Jan 28

    That is mediawiki markup, indicating the please is supposed to be printed as emphasized text.

  3. agerard Jan 28

    I’ve been so bothered by these unnecessary quotes on signs for so long. I think I’m going to start taking photos of these signs. Maybe if we see enough of them together, we can figure out what the quotations marks actually mean.

  4. Sam Morris Jan 28

    Already done, but sans images:


  5. Gabe Shepard Jan 28

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while too — I’ve gathered that some people think that quotes do mean emphasis, although they’ve been doing it long before mediawiki existed :)

    Not sure why people have settled on quotes though (which actually do have a meaning) rather than _underscores_ or *asterisks*.


  6. Søren Hansen Jan 28

    I’ve no idea what it means either, but I saw a similar sign next to some rag dolls about a year ago in a supermarket. It said:

    "real" hair

    Well… Which is it? Is it real or not? It was made of yarn, so I guess not, but it’s still a really weird sign. You can see it for yourself: http://warma.dk/realhair.jpg

  7. Ross Burton Jan 28

    What they mean is that they’ll say “please” but mean “take off your kneecaps”.

  8. Chris Cunningham Jan 28

    I’d go with the Mediawiki comment, which is perfect.

    My more mundane answer would be that for a majority of adult English speakers, punctuation is a frightening and barely-comprehensible relic of ancient times. While people are aware that a certain amount of punctuation is desirable (or indeed necessary) on signage, the exact type of punctuation isn’t really necessary, as nobody else really understands it either.

    – Chris

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