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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:53 am

• sic •

Pronunciation: sik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb; Verb

Meaning: 1. [Adverb] (Written) Thus, so; used in quotations to indicate a misspelling that appears in the original. 2. [Verb] Attack, set upon.

Notes: Today we are having another two-for-one sale (at a very reasonable price, too). English has two words spelled sic. The first is an adverb used in quoting someone when there is a peculiar word in the quotation, for example, "Jessica said she waited with baited (sic) breath for Phil's return." The verb occurs mostly in the imperative phrase such as, "Sic him, Fang!" when setting a dog on someone. This one is sometimes spelled sick.

In Play: The first of today's Good Words is normally used when you want to poke fun at someone's grammatical or lexical mistakes: "Henry wrote that Henrietta was quite a site (sic) in her new evening dress." Of course, the other sic is not limited by reference to dogs: "If you say anything bad about Chris Cross he is inclined to sic his pack of lawyers on you."

Word History: The first sic, the adverb, came from Latin sic "thus, so". This word came from a Proto-Indo-European word, so- "this, that", that also produced English she through Old English sio "she". It is also responsible for Greek hoi "the" as in hoi polloi "the (ordinary) people". The other sic started out as a dialectal variant of seek, but then took on a rougher sense when it moved into the general language. Seek evolved from PIE sag-. That makes seek cousins with German suchen "seek" and Old Norse saka "to search, seek", found in a word English borrowed from the Vikings, ransack, from rann "house" + saka "to search, seek". (Albert Skiles is owed our gratitude for ransacking everything he reads for Good Words like today's.)
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David McWethy
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Sic & Baited breath

Postby David McWethy » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:24 am

In keeping with Dr. G's generous two-fer sale I'll try my best to respond in kind:

When the parents of my grandchildren were young--some few weeks ago it seems--and our household abounded with brain teasers (Q: Is the glass half full or half empty; A: It's always full: Half full of water & half full of air). Another example concerned an instance when InCa (the Indoor Cat) might have a residual, telltale lingering "nose" of camembert or cheddar (bait for the mouse) if it decisively beat the Lord or Lady of the Manor to the mouse-trap, impatiently striding back and forth as a way that clearly marked the hapless creature as a Possession of the Cat.

It is, admittedly a bit of a reach, but if some of the mouse mousse remained clinging to Le Chat's whiskers I'll jump out there on a thin limb supported mainly by imagination and take the position that in this narrow instance it might indeed be proper to refer to the cat as "possessing baited breath".

Relating to the above by nothing except frivolity: This past week we've had a glorious, sparkling snowfall, which--coupled with what the "spit 'n whittle club" referred to as "no temperature" (i.e., overnight lows hovering arount zero) produced a truly blinding dazzle leading up to the weekend, with frequent brief encores and curtains calls, until city crews--driving dump trucks of salt, gravel, and--I kid you not--beet juice turned the magnificant Creation by the hand of the Divine into the epitome of ugliness by Sunday night. To me, the expression that best describes the transformation would be something akin to sic transit gloria Monday, wot? wot?
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things...."

Perry Lassiter
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Re: Sic

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:27 pm

In a slightly more serious vein, sic is often used in quotes and reproduction of another's writings. When there is an ancient spelling, or simply a misspelling, in the original, a quick way to note that it is not a typo is to insert the word sic enclosed by parentheses.

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