or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Reference Question of the Week – 11/7/10

   November 13th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Vonnegut's asteriskA patron walked up to the desk and placed a piece of scrap paper in front of me. On it was written:

...Just had an *awesome* dinner...

After I read it, the patron explained that a friend of hers had just posted that message to Twitter. She wanted to know if there was such a thing as an "air asterisk" - like "air quotes," but to add the emphasis of the asterisks instead of the sarcasm of the quotes.

Huh. I first searched the web for "air asterisk" and "air asterisk" "air quote" but only found a website where one of the comments asked the same question, but never answered it.

So I tried to be creative and search for "air star" "air quote", which led to a website describing how kids in London did air asterisks. That was funny, but we thought drawing out the six lines was too involved.

Just JackWe were talking during the search, and decided that five fingers + one arm = six lines, so just holding your hands up with fingers extended would be a good "air asterisk" - similar to the "Just Jack" move.

I next thought to search Urban Dictionary for "air asterisk," which referred to the term "airsterisk" but didn't explain how it was performed. So we searched the web again for "airsterisk" and this time found a YouTube video where they both demonstrate and explain it:

The video is from 2006, so they're right - it is catching on. - Except: they're using it for a footnote, but for our purposes we'd actually use both hands to add emphasis to the word *awesome.*

In the end, the patron actually seemed kind of pleased we couldn't find the exact thing anywhere online - kind of like she had come up with something entirely new. She thank me by saying,

*Thanks* for your help.



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