• 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.)