05 Language & Writing

The #cancelsic Movement

I am sick of sic. Aren’t you?

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You all know the word ‘sic’, which appears in parentheses after a piece of quoted speech in newspapers and online. We know it means the text is verbatim, and the spelling and grammatical errors are those of the person quoted and not the one quoting.

The problem is, sic sounds too much like ‘sick’ and feels rather uppity and derogatory to me. It comes from the Latin ‘thus’ or ‘so’ but is, unfortunately, a homophone for ‘sick’. It’s like the writer is saying, “Oh my god, this person is so uneducated, so ignorant. S(he) can’t even say something properly and is still trying to look intelligent. It makes me sick.”

Now you may argue that I should not take to heart the same-soundingness of sic and sick, and focus instead on its utility. You’ll ask me to admire the rectitude of the copy editors who established it in the pantheon of proofreading marks. (By the way, does ‘rectitude’ remind you too of ‘rectum’ and make you squirm? Sorry, I know, I know).

I may concede it, but my pugnacious mind has another problem: the insult inflicted on us readers.

Do we not know when something is misspelt, and can we not spot poor grammar? And even if we can’t, don’t we have the right to be treated as if we can? Yes, we do. So come on, you smug-to-be-published newspaper or article writers, be nice and accord us respect for being equally knowing and alert. We do not read in a daze, nor willy nilly condone the linguistic lapses of the starlet or politico. We also care for quality. Know this and leave us be. We’ll thank you for not pointing out the obvious.

I now call for cancelling of ‘sic’, except in pieces specifically written to critique someone’s language and not report their thoughts.

The world has enough rudeness. Let’s get rid of this near-ubiquitous little ugliness for daily relief. I hope you read this, newspaper editors, style guide owners, and others of your ilk everywhere.

Raise a glass to abolish sic vigilantism. Cheers!


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