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Past tense of sic'em
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2013/10/29
11:14pm
deaconB
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From the phone on my desk I got Jane Geer at her office.

“Archie,” I told her.

She snapped, “Archie who?”

“Oh, come, come. We haven't sicked the police onto you, have we? Let's gossip a while.”

Rex Stout (Trouble in Triplicate).

 

Nero Wolfe isn't just a gourmet and gourmand, but he has a Big Dic on a stand in his officw, so I was a little surprised to find Archie Goodwin writing "sicked" instead of "sicced".  Of course, the Montenegan disagrees with lexicographers at times, but there is no discussion, so I think maybe this was an error (perhaps introduced by an idiot copy editor at Viking Press.)

The verb "to sic" comes from the Latin "sic" rather than the path used for the illness "sick", doesn't it?

I took Latin in Ohio (where Archie hails from( back before all the Lats died off, so my "old-timers' disease" means Viking Press doesn't have ALL the idiots….

2013/10/30
12:54am
Ron Draney
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My preference is also for sicced (which I now see spell-check disapproves of), but there's a precedent for the letter K to mysteriously appear when the word ending in C picks up a suffix starting with a vowel. You'll often read of an old country doctor physicking his patients, or a sorcerer who magicked the prince.

2013/10/30
1:16am
tromboniator
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Well, my wife seems to have packed away my one-seventh of a ton of Nero Wolfe books, but "sicked" feels un-Goodwinesque and un-Stoutish to me. M-W says that "sic" is an alteration of "seek," and "sicced" and "sicked" are both in use.

The image of Wolfe feeding dictionary pages into the fireplace is to me the most vivid in the whole series.

2013/10/30
1:55am
Glenn
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I agree that adding an orthographic k is a standard for some forms of verbs ending in c. It is used in the forms when the ending would otherwise turn a hard c into a soft c.
Cf. you politic; he politics; they politicked; we are politicking. Specifically the front vowels have this effect and not the back vowels. Cf. political, politico.

The result of the orthographic k seems a bit old-style to me, since some obsolete orthography avoided a final c as well and added an orthographic k. I am not surprised that orthographic doubling of the c before some ending might be gaining some traction in recent years.

2013/10/30
7:19am
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Ron Draney said

My preference is also for sicced (which I now see spell-check disapproves of), but there's a precedent for the letter K to mysteriously appear when the word ending in C picks up a suffix starting with a vowel. You'll often read of an old country doctor physicking his patients, or a sorcerer who magicked the prince.

I have also seen (and quoted) mimicked.

Emmett

2013/10/31
2:22am
deaconB
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After starting this thread, I got to thinking about using a certain farm implement.  In its most common minimal configuration, it consists of four axles forming a flattened X, with coulters spaced every 4-6 inches along each axle.  This harrow tool is used to bury vegetation such as corn stalks at the end of a season, or to break up the clods left from plowing.  Often you'd drag a sled of railroad ties with big spikes driven through, to further break up the isk harrow.soil further and leave it smooth enough for planting.

The rear utensil is known as a spike-tooth harrow, and the front device as a disc harrow or a disc harrow.  I've seen both names in advertisements, in about a 50.50 proportion, but using one isn't known as harrowing, it's called disking or discing, and by what appears to be a ratio of 10 to 1, farmers write that they disked, not disced.

I also got to thinking about the S-word. The past and pluperfect of hit is also hit, but people seem to conjugate S-word, the equivalent of hat or hitted.  I suppose it ought not matter, but I remember a story – was it Dorothy Parker or Tallulah Bankhead? – where she retired to her Pullman berth, and a couple of minutes later, the fellow below her passed up a note.  She wasn't so shocked by the proposition, she said, as by his improper punctuation.  So if lexicographers are to be descriptive, not prescriptive, what are the correct tenses for the S-word?

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