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The Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written") inserted immediately after a quoted word or passage, indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.
The notation's usual purpose is to inform the reader that any errors or apparent errors in quoted material do not arise from errors in the course of the transcription, but are intentionally reproduced, exactly as they appear in the source text. It is generally placed inside square brackets, to signal that it is not part of the quoted matter; and is traditionally printed in italics, as is customary with foreign words.
Sic may also be used derisively, to call attention to the original writer's spelling mistakes or erroneous logic.
|Look up sic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Though occasionally misidentified as an abbreviated word, sic is a Latin adverb used in English as an adverb, and, derivatively, as a noun and a verb.
The adverb sic, meaning "intentionally so written", first appeared in English circa 1856. It is derived from the Latin adverb sīc, which contains a long vowel and means "so, thus, in this manner", or "in such a manner".
On occasion, sic has been misidentified as the acronym "s.i.c." for "spelled in context", "said in copy", "spelling is correct", "spelled incorrectly", and other phrases. These are all backronyms from sic.
Use of sic greatly increased in the mid-twentieth century. For example, in state-court opinions before 1944, sic appeared 1,239 times in the Westlaw database; in those from 1945 to 1990, it appeared 69,168 times. The "benighted use" as a form of ridicule, deserved or otherwise, has been cited as a major factor in this increase.
Sic, in its bracketed form, is most often inserted into quoted or reprinted material in order to indicate meticulous accuracy in reproducing the preceding text, despite appearances to the reader of an incorrect or unusual orthography (spelling, punctuation, etc.), grammar, fact, or logic. Several usage guides recommend that a bracketed sic be used primarily as an aid to the reader, and not as an indicator of disagreement with the source.
A sic may show that an uncommon or archaic usage is reported faithfully, such as when quoting the U.S. Constitution: "The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker ..." However, various writing guidebooks discourage its use with regard to dialect such as in cases of American and British English spelling differences, unless used to convey ridicule. For instance, the appearance of a bracketed sic after the word analyse on a book cover led Bryan A. Garner to comment, "... all the quoter (or overzealous editor) demonstrated was ignorance of British usage." Clearly the quoter would have preferred the U.S. spelling "analyze".
Various wordplays regarding the word sic are possible, arising either from its second polysemic meaning "to attack" or from its homophone sick. The latter case is exemplified by the humorous expression "Poor grammar makes me [sic]" – which has been featured on clothing and postcards.
Another example of this kind of pun can be found in the website TV Tropes, which uses it as an article title as well as in a letter to the American Journal of Roentgenology criticizing their apparent overuse of sic as a kind of linguistic discrimination against those from a foreign-language background that "could lead readers to become 'sick of your sic'".
The use of sic can be seen as an example of the linguistic device of appeal to ridicule, whether intentional or not, because it highlights perceived irregularities. The application of sic with intent to disparage has been called the "benighted use" because it creates a "false sense of superiority" in its users. The following example from The Times demonstrates how the interpolation of sic can subtly discredit a quoted statement.
Warehouse has been around for 30 years and has 263 stores, suggesting a large fan base. The chain sums up its appeal thus: "styley [sic], confident, sexy, glamorous, edgy, clean and individual, with it's [sic] finger on the fashion pulse."
While chiefly used in text that is not one's own, occasionally a sic is included by a writer after his or her own word(s) to note that the language has been chosen deliberately for special effect, especially where the writer's ironic meaning may otherwise be unclear. Bryan A. Garner dubbed this kind of usage of sic as the "ironic use," providing the following example from Fred Rodell's 1955 book Nine Men:
[I]n 1951, it was the blessing bestowed on Judge Harold Medina's prosecution [sic] of the eleven so-called "top native Communists," which blessing meant giving the Smith Act the judicial nod of constitutionality.
Nonetheless, a writer's use of sic in his or her own words may lead readers to assume the source of the sic to be the book's editor and is often considered unconventional even when the sic "ironic use" reference is correctly understood.
When placed within quoted material, square brackets are almost invariably used in modern U.S. usage: "[sic]". Traditionally, the sic appears after the quote in parentheses (round brackets): "(sic)", especially when the error is obvious. The word sic appears italicized, while the brackets are not: "[sic]", following the convention that usage of italic type serves to indicate foreign words. This academic usage has become rarer in recent times. While most style guidelines including The MLA Style Manual do not require italicization, others do, such as the APA Style. The APA Style insists upon the underlining of sic as an alternative when italic type is not available.
By convention, when no orthographic or grammatical errors are present, the use of sic often refers to a fallacy or error in logic, and sic has been construed as intentionally argumentative and disparaging, producing backlash towards the publications in which they appear.
Usage of sic has been noted for its potential to affect linguistic discrimination. A letter written to the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) has been cited in the journal's French counterpart, the Journal de Radiologie, highlighting how apparent prejudices among English-language journals may be causing a higher rejection rate of scholarly papers from francophone authors – a concern because English is the lingua franca for medicine. In the letter, the AJR was criticized for its frequent insertion of sic when publishing letters written by French and Japanese authors even though its correspondence acceptance policy reserved the right of copy-editing, which could therefore have been used beneficially to correct minor English language errors made by non English-speakers. In response, Lee F. Rogers, the Editor in Chief of AJR, apologized for the possible discriminatory interpretation and offered the following explanation for its decision to insert sic on multiple occasions rather than to copy-edit:
It is true that our manuscript editors normally remedy errors in the use of the English language to ensure reader understanding and to avoid embarrassing our non–English-speaking authors. However, because of the seriousness of the allegations addressed, we believed that verbatim quotes were necessary. Under such circumstances, we did not think it correct for us to assume the meaning of misspelled words or the intent of the author of the letter in question.
Various usage guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, recommend "quiet copy-editing" (unless where inappropriate or uncertain) instead of inserting a bracketed sic, such as by substituting in brackets the correct word (if known) in place of the incorrect word.
|Look up recte in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Alternatively, when both the original and the suggested correction are desired to be shown (as they often are in palaeography), one may give the actual form, followed by sic in brackets, followed by the corrected form, preceded by recte, in brackets. The word recte is a Latin adverb meaning "rightly".
An Iraqi battalion has consumed [sic] [recte assumed] control of the former American military base, and our forces are now about 40 minutes outside the city.
According to the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music Style Sheet, there should be no punctuation, for example no colon, before the corrected word when using recte. Sometimes only sic and the correction are in the bracket, becoming as in the last example "[sic assumed]" (i.e. recte is omitted).