August 29, 2011


Posted in Abstract, Define, Original Documents tagged , , , , , , at 11:27 am by Wyllo

Contrary to what seems to be a common belief among some genealogists, sic is not an abbreviation, and it doesn’t have periods between the letters; it is an adverb. This adverb (from the Latin word sicut — meaning ‘just as’, ‘so’, ‘thus’ or ‘thus so’) is used contemporarily to mean ‘intentionally so written’ or ‘said in context’ and to indicate that the passage or word it appears after is exactly the way it was written in the original document or text. It first appeared in the English language in transcriptions and legal documents about 1856.

The word is an author’s or editor’s mark (usually printed in italics and correctly used when enclosed in brackets [sic] and not in parenthesis (sic), even though it is often used that way incorrectly). It points out that the previous word (despite its obvious absurdity, vulgarity,  inappropriateness, anomaly, imprecise meaning or inaccuracy) is spelled exactly how it was intended, is what was originally said, is written in context or explains the status of the errata (in this case, that whatever was said or written was used in context); it is not a misprint or misquote. The word sic is used immediately after the error, even when it falls in the middle of a sentence. This designates the mistake or the word’s odd usage in the source text is the source’s error or usage and not the writer’s.

When found in a French document, sic is an acronym that stands for “Sans Intention Comique” (without comic intention) meaning that even if the preceding text could be construed as funny, it was not meant to be. Yet, there may be found in it some irony.

When seen in a Scottish document, sic generally refers to something being “said in context.”

Sic is still used in court dockets and other legal records when a plaintiff, defendant or a wittness has been transcribed or quoted erroneously and the clerk recognizes the wrong spelling, a word is slang or misspoken. It is also used in other types of written manuscripts like books containing reprinted texts, which have spelling errors or words that seem odd or inaccurate.

It’s most common everyday usage is probably found in current newspapers when a journalist or writer quotes someone directly and he or the editor of the publication recognizes that the person being quoted or the author, himself, has made a spelling error.

Since it is an adverb, it becomes unnecessary to include a period inside the brackets after the word sic is used.

Even though we mention many of them in this article, there are distinctions within the usage of the word sic; it can signify several different things.

So, let’s look at a few examples:

Incorrect usage of a word — “If a woman did anything strange or questionable among the early American Pilgrims, sometimes they’d just hang them.” [sic] — Instead of using the word “them”, it should have said “they’d just hang her.”

Incorrect spelling —  “We came down yesterday to here [sic] what the mayor had to say about the sheep herders up on our mountain lands.” The spelling of “here” is incorrect. Instead, “hear” is the correct spelling.

Odd or inaccurate use of a word or phrase — “Having heard nothing to sway our minds, we go again [sic] home.” Normally, we don’t say, “… we go again home.” Depending on which tense being used, we might say, “… we (we’ll) go home again.” or, “… we went home again.”

Ironic, Sans Intention Comique or without comic intention — While chatting on the Internet, someone using geek-speak said, “I M [sic] tired of literary shortcuts!”  The irony lies in the fact that he just used a geek-speak shortcut; I M means ‘I am’. Therein also lies the comedic intention, in my opinion. I have never perceived at geek-speak as being literary.