This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Nuts and Bolts: sic.


I can't think of another word which is so often locked up in brackets, poor thing.

I suppose it's free in sic transit gloria mundi* but otherwise sic is almost always imprisoned.

As often as not it's misused, too.

(Sic) is generally used after a quotation, which is fine: but (sic) is much too often used to mean good grief, how stupid is that? Or don't think for a moment that I actually agree with that statement.

What (sic) really means is: although that quotation has something wrong with it, the mistake is in the original, not put in when I copied it.

Basically, (sic) means this is their error, not mine.

So, for instance in "the Olympic champion was absolutely at the peak of fatness" (sic) we know we're laughing at the idiot who originally wrote that.

(Sic) comes in especially useful with spelling mistakes. We wouldn't want anyone to think we would write give peas a chance ourselves, or do what the copy editor of the very serious novel once did, and print the River Ouseburn as the River Ousebum. 

That small error still gives me joy; and so does the one in another novel where a man in the depths of despair and anguish exclaims dramatically: 'Oh Cod!'


I bet the poor writer was. As the proverbial parrot.

Word To Use Correctly Today: sic. Sīc is the Latin for thus. In English sic is short for sic erat scriptum, which means thus it was written. 

Sic is sometimes also used as a Scots form of such, which is rather lovely.

It's also occasionally used as an order to a dog to attack, but then it's not lovely at all.

*On Monday, Gloria was ill in the van.**

**Oh, all right. It really means thus passes the glory of the world.


  1. You've really made me smile this morning! How right you are about the uses of poor old 'sic'!

  2. Thanks so much, Katherine and Tony. Perhaps I ought to start a Liberation Movement...