How are finger quotation marks made in German? enter image description here

Air commas in English –when made with both hands– are usually done with hands at more or less equal height, I suppose.
So I did while speaking German before, since paying attention to the fact that quotation marks are different (Gänsefüßchen unten Text Gänsefüßchen oben) didn't seem to matter, in my eyes:

enter image description here

Nevertheless, I saw yesterday on ZDF Olaf Schubert making this quotes in other manner: enter image description here If you see the video, left hand was (slightly) below his right hand when he made the air quotations, and clearly rotated.

Therefore I'd like to ask if that's usual or he was just kidding.

  • 2
    Man sollte beides unterlassen, weil in 99% der Fälle Anführungszeichen so oder so falsch sind. Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 19:36
  • @userunknown Meinst du nur die gestikulierten Anführungszeichen?
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 20:00
  • 3
    They are not typical German, but every now and then you see people make that gesture, probably adopted from Anglo-American TV series and shows. The height of the air quotes is irrelevant and very likely dependent on who makes them, AFAICT. Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 20:18
  • 3
    Another interesting question would be how you do air quotes in Swiss German, then... This looks like it could lead to serious injuries...
    – tofro
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 22:01
  • 1
    @ThorstenDittmar Why? Oral communication has additional aspects, mimic, gestures, etc. Different melodies on the same phrase do lead to different meanings. It might be that finger quotes are not usual in German (that's part of the question actually), but I don't see anything unproper about it in other languages.
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Air quotes are in fact used in body language, but its usage seems to be mainly concentrated in the German academic circle.

Its usage is

  1. to indicate a citation (more frequent).
  2. to distance themselves from a certain phrase/word which you want to ridicule or despise (also known, but infrequent)

This article of the taz seems to corrobate its usage. Another article where it is called indecorous, under "Unarten".

In both cases hands are lifted to shoulder height and both forefinger and middle finger are bent shortly while the word is strongly stressed. So both the first image and Dr Evil's use are quite accurate, but the German usage is quite fast, you only do it for less than a second to underscore the message even if the word/phrase is longer. No, Germans don't use different heights, the German quotation marks different position does not translate into body language.

I use it myself since the 1980/1990s in Nordrhine-Westphalia and I have also seen it many times in academic circles, so it is nothing new and its meaning is easily understood because the words are stressed.

  • If you could back up the statement "the German quotation marks different position does not translate into body language" I'd be amazed. (Typophiles , well, at least some serious nitpickers at least, not doing that? But I guess that a study on that would be very hard to come by and my general impression is that you are largely correct here…) Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 20:25

"Air Quotes" are all uncommon among German speakers. Instead, people prefix the questionable part with the phrase eine Art or eher ein/eine.

Michael Haubold use these air quotes ironically, as his character Olaf Schubert is an East-German wannabe-cosmopolitan grewn old, who still absorbs anything new and non-German while being totally German in all his everyday manners. (Olaf is a caricature of the young Udo Lindenberg.)


Without having been watching that TV show, I don't believe there's a deeper meaning in that variation of the gesture.

Therefore I'd like to ask if that's usual or he was just kidding1.

It's not really usual, but doing that with hands at same height is the more common use2.
As mentioned showing that gesture in a slightly varied manner, doesn't add any additional meaning (at least not one I am aware of).

since paying attention to the fact that quotation marks are different (Gänsefüßchen unten Text Gänsefüßchen oben)

You seem to be right, that in german quotation marks are rendered differently though. Here's what my Libre Office Writer does for

Document language setting is English

enter image description here

Document language setting is German

enter image description here

1)Though, I'd suspect that Olaf Schubert is kidding all the time anyways ;-)
2)I am not even sure, if that gesture was adopted from the anglo american language area through TV and movies.

  • 5
    The second part of your answer does not add anything useful.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 19:02

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