You know, I’ve always heard them called scare quotes. Those words you put within quote marks in a sentence because you are using a word with irony or even that you mean the opposite of what you are saying. I recently read that Grammar Girl, the voice of all things proper in the grammar world, calls them sneer quotes. Love it! I never understood the term scare, but sneer works quite nicely, don’t you think? Here’s what she has to say:
Double Quotation Marks for Scare Quotes
Double quotation marks can also be used sometimes to indicate that a word is special in some way. I bet you’ve all seen quotation marks used as something called scare quotes, which are quotation marks put around a word to show that the writer doesn’t buy into the meaning. For example, I could write the sentence:
Women achieved “equality” when they were granted the right to vote in 1920.
That would indicate that although women getting the right to vote was heralded as equality at the time, I don’t think it was enough of a gain to merit the word equality. More often though, scare quotes (which are also sometimes called sneer quotes) are used to impart a sense of irony or disdain. They’re especially common in nasty political commentary, as in Politicians “care” about their constituents*.
You can read here entire post, full of helpful rules and tips on using quote marks here.
Grammar is “fun” stuff. Really!