Sic Erat Scriptum

The curse of knowledge is one of my favorite cognitive biases to ponder on. This is our brain’s bias to think that just because we know something, then everyone else must know about it too. It seems like such a childish idea, but it’s something affects us all the time.

One time, while working in the bakery, I had taken an order for a cake that the customer wanted writing on. They wanted a word on the cake specifically spelled wrong. So, on the order, I wrote what they wanted written, spelled it exactly as they had specified, and put quotes around it so the decorators would know they should put that exactly. I come in a few days later to hear that the decorators had spelled the word “correctly”, and the customers were disappointed. Some of our bakery staff are/were trained to write on cakes, so I’m sure we fixed it for them, but still.

I lamented to my coworkers how I knew at the time that I should’ve written [sic] next to the misspelled word to make sure the decorators didn’t correct it, and no one knew what I was talking about! I went back to ask a few more of my coworkers, and they didn’t know either! I think of the 6 or so people I asked, only 1 kinda knew what I was talking about. I was absolutely amazed. A whole department and then some of educated people, and none of them really knew what it meant. To be frank, I wasn’t entirely sure where it came from, but I at least knew what it meant when I saw it in a body of text.

Given my flavor of autism, the curse of knowledge has always been one of my weaknesses. I don’t necessarily consider myself smart, so I figure if I know something, surely everyone else does to. Since this event, though, I still go out of my way to occasionally ask friends and acquaintances if they know what it means.

So What Does It Mean

If this is your first time seeing this word/phrase used, congrats on being one of the 10,000! Often times you’ll see this in a quote in an article or interview, such as the following contrived example.

Q: So, how do you feel about the team this year?
A: I think these guys’s [sic] are gonna do great this year!

Sic, or sic erat scriptum, is latin, and translates to something like “as it was written.” When encountered alongside a quote, this indicates that the author did not mistype or misquote what’s shown. It’s especially useful when the quoted text seems like the opposite of what the reader might assume was said, or when what was said was incoherent.

Now you too can annoy your friends and family with this new knowledge of latin and its applicability in writing!


I hadn’t noticed this when writing this, but this post from James’ Coffee Blog, Post scriptum, was definitely the catalyst for post. I saw the title while scrolling my RSS feed, which is what reminded me of sic erat scriptum. Thank you James for the inspiration.

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