We’ve all seen it. It pops up in quotes and excerpts with regularity. It’s pithy and powerful. It’s [sic]. Those three simple letters, usually in brackets and italicized, indicate that a grammatical or spelling error or an odd choice of words appeared in the original text from which the current author is quoting.
And yet [sic] also indicates so much more than that. It’s more than scrupulous documentation; it’s also a fascinating bit of buck-passing and an appeal to ridicule. The author who breaks out [sic] wants to make it perfectly clear to his or her audience that he or she would never commit such a disqualifying error as misspell a word or use an inaccurate term. Let there be no misunderstanding that could lead you, dear reader, to conclude that I made this embarrassing faux pas – trust me, it was the original author I’m quoting from.
[Sic] is also a useful weapon in wars of words. Suppose that one of my bitter political or ideological opponents – say, someone who says dogs are better than cats – writes the following sentence somewhere: “Your never living a full life until you get a dog.” Aha! As I rip this fool’s argument to shreds in my own blog post or article, I make sure to include a line like the following: “Joe claims that ‘Your [sic] never living a full life until you get a dog.’ Such is the feeble gibberish we’ve come to expect from Joe and his ilk.” By slapping [sic] into Joe’s quote, I say to my readers, through a wink and a nod, “Look. This guy can’t even use proper grammar. Do you really think that someone like that could possibly have any idea what they’re talking about when they discuss the big issues?”
I therefore put forth a challenge to the readers of The Fifth Floor. I want to know if someone can find, on the internet, a case in which someone uses [sic] while quoting someone they demonstrably agree or sympathize with. Annnnd [sic]…..GO!