Quotation marks

On the Guardian website front page right now is a headline

Cameron ‘did not bow to Merkel’

I found this wording interesting, for reasons that I’ll mention below, so I wanted to see who said it. But when I moved to the article, those words were nowhere mentioned. What it says is “The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has denied that David Cameron “backed off” over plans to cap migration from the EU after Angela Merkel told him she would not tolerate such an incursion into the principle of the free movement of workers.”

So, did Hammond say “bow”, or “backed off”, or something else entirely? When did quotation marks become acceptable for paraphrases? Or have I missed a subtle development in the distinction between single quotes and double quotes?

Screenshot 2014-11-30 10.26.42

I’m slightly intrigued by the issue of national leaders “bowing” to other leaders, which seems to be particularly influential in political cultures dominated by the culture of schoolboy taunts, as are those of the US and the UK — most especially the UK. I recall the scandal early in the Clinton presidency, when the new president was seen to have bowed to the Japanese emperor.

Administration officials scurried to insist that the eager-to-please President had not really done the unthinkable. “It was not a bow-bow, if you know what I mean,” said Ambassador Molly Raiser, the chief of protocol.

Of course, this was an emperor, not a head of state, and the suggestion was not that Clinton was bowing politically to foreign interests, but rather that he was showing too much obeisance to a monarch, not being true to America’s tradition of colonial independence and steadfast republicanism.

Who would have thought that, barely a decade later, a US president would be attacked by the right wing for his supposed “anti-colonial” roots?

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