Going around my local shops yesterday, I noticed the following sign outside my butcher’s:
"fresh" chicken legs
I don’t quite understand what they wanted to achieve here with these inverted commas. When they don’t introduce a quote, inverted commas are generally used to indicate that a word is intended to mean something slightly different from what it actually does mean.
For example,
Janine "accidentally" killed Barry.
Although she claims she didn’t mean to push him off a cliff, the fact that she ran down to laugh at him as he laid dying and didn’t call for an ambulance suggests that it might not have been a complete accident.
I like the way Lynne Truss explains this use of inverted commas in Eats Shoots and Leaves. In a newspaper, for example, they, "are understood by readers to mean that there is some authority for this story; perhaps even a quotable source, but that the newspaper itself won’t yet state it as fact. (…) "PIZZAS" in inverted commas suggests these might be pizzas, but nobody’s promising anything, and if they turn out to be cardboard with a bit of cheese on top, you can’t say you weren’t warned."
Needless to say, there were no "fresh" chicken legs on the menu last night.