Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Three Letter Words

246 words

In this world full of geeks and know-it-alls, there are two three-letter-words, or expressions rather, which I just don’t want to see anymore. The first of them is plz for the lazy bastards who just can’t waste their precious time to spell please out properly. It makes me wonder how serious those people are about their queries when asking with a plz only. If they can’t even be bothered to type the word properly, they might not mean it either.

The other one is sic, or, usually, [sic]. And it’s of course used in quotes and it’s used by people to indicate that the spelling mistake preceding it isn’t their own fault but the original author’s. Wouldn’t it be OK to tacitly correct the original typo? And isn’t it odd that most occurrences of this expression are seen when the writer comments negatively on the text (s)he is quoting? To me it just looks like annoying smart-ass-ism. Why can’t people tacitly correct those typos before quoting or simply assume that their readers will know that your typical copy-and-paste action won’t have introduced them?

P.S. As an exercise for the reader: I wanted to get a count of [sic]s on the web. But the search engines I tried can’t distinguish between [sic] and sic. As there seem to be quite a few abbreviations with those characters as well, I feel that I need a count with the brackets. How can that be achieved?

October 20, 2005, 0:28


Comment by Simone Manganelli: User icon

Eh, I dunno. While I agree with you on the “plz” part (and many other endless abbreviations of regular words), I don’t think that “[sic]” should necessarily be eliminated. It might be a bit smart-ass-ish, but only if you come in with that attitude.

“[sic]” allows you to cite someone else’s words verbatim. If you casually corrected spelling mistakes, would you casually correct grammar mistakes as well? Or if you correct mistakes in writing, would you also correct someone’s spoken words when their phrases weren’t worded correctly for maximum clarity? You might unintentionally change the meaning of the sentence when you do that. While you may see “[sic]” as trying to intentionally point out someone else’s weaknesses and showing that you’re better than them, I think of it as preserving their quotes letter-for-letter. That way, not only can I be absolved of misquoting the person, but it protects me from going down the slippery slope and ending up at the bottom where I changed the meaning of someone’s quote. Usually this would happen only in regards to grammar, but sometimes unwieldy sentences are created that you might have misinterpreted the sentence, and casually changing the “misspelling” would change the meaning of the sentence as well.

Also, while honestly not trying to be smart-ass-ish, spelling and grammar mistakes can sometimes reveal a very small part of someone’s character. Not only can it reveal if they’ve been educated heavily in a certain language, but it might reveal if they’re from a foreign country. That’s not to ridicule them, but if some historian came across my quotes that had been meticulously corrected for spelling errors, they might come to a different conclusion than if they had come across my uncorrected quotes.

It’s a bit pedantic (OK, it’s very pedantic), but I think it’s important to preserve quotes exactly as they were written or spoken.

— Simone

October 20, 2005, 8:33

Comment by ssp: User icon


I agree that we should at least be careful about changing other people’s text. And you’re certainly right that there are sources in which the subtleties of spelling are correct.

But those aren’t the kinds of text that quoted en-masse on the internet. Most of the time, we are seeing quotes on trivial topics from other websites. Nothing of historical importance. Nothing that isn’t copy-and-pasted anyway and thus trivial without new typos by the quoting party. And most probably with a link directly to the original source anyway which the interested reader will follow to get a better idea of the writer.

October 20, 2005, 13:55

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