Saturday, July 07, 2007

What does "(sic)" mean, and why is it used?

Who's asking: Larry Willis, St. Louis, MO

Larry writes, "I often see something written like, 'I was preparing my character for a roll (sic) in a movie...'"

Sic is the Latin word for "thus," as in the Virginia state motto, Sic semper tyrannis (thus always to tyrants). Editors and typographers use it to show that they have chosen to reproduce an error in an original text. You see it frequently in academic works, especially when authors are quoting archaic spellings or constructions.

I don't like it, and rarely use it. At best, it's pedantic; at worst, it's smug, and in the example Larry gives, its purpose is to embarrass the actor being quoted. We saw the word sic a lot when the gossip media were reporting Lindsay Lohan's incoherent e-mail tribute to the late Robert Altman ("be adequite").

Then again, publications have become so rife with errors that conscientious copy editors may feel the need to defend themselves by making sure that readers know the errors aren't theirs. I recently received a broadcast e-mail from a professional association I belong to, announcing a series of "exiting meetings" with various important people. From the context I assumed they meant "exciting," but I had fun for a few minutes imagining a string of elaborate leave-takings.


Anonymous said...

As someone who seems to forget to proofread stuff I write, I must have a (sic) mind.

I hope you day is going better than Friday


AnswerGirl said...

Thanks, Richard ... every day in every way, I'm getting better and better...

Anonymous said...

What about when the word is in the brackets? Like Farve's quotes yesterday: " I guess it's [an] ACL or something. They've always overcome injuries and things like that, but that's pretty difficult [with] Tom Brady."

The first "an" doesn't appear to be wrong?? Thanks

AnswerGirl said...

Those brackets indicate that the words were not part of the original quotation, and that an editor added them for clarity.

Anonymous said...