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This article on BBC website has the sentence

Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested [sic] for a routine traffic stop?

As I understand [sic], it's meant to imply there's an error in the original text that the reporter is stating verbatim.

Arrested is spelt correctly, so is the [sic] unnecessary in this instance, or does it refer to something else in the sentence?

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    Maybe the guy wasn't actually arrested? (Perhaps he was rather detained). Or it used to emphasize that he was arrested for a routine traffic stop. Sic is used to point out surprising assertion as well – Wottensprels Jul 17 '15 at 8:13
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    @Sprottenwels the guy was a woman. It is interesting to note that the BBC has corrected something in the original tweet, which had the letter "d" where they quote the word "for" -- immediately after [sic]! "Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested d a routine traffic stop?" I think that there was an editing error; see my answer for the explanation. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 9:44
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    'Being arrested for a routine traffic stop' makes as much sense as 'Being arrested for a passport inspection'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 17 '15 at 11:19
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    @jamesqf You were arrested as a result of / following a routine traffic stop, not 'arrested for a routine traffic stop'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 17 '15 at 18:17
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    Well, in British English, the only meaning I can give to "X was arrested for a traffic stop" would be "X was arrested for impersonating a police officer and detaining somebody on the pretence of making a traffic stop". As @EdwinAshworth said, being arrested for a traffic stop makes no sense. Being arrested after a routine traffic stop does make sense, if the stop resulted in reasonable suspicion that an arrestable offence had been committed, even though the offence had nothing to do with the traffic stop itself. – alephzero Jul 17 '15 at 20:19
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Oh, this is a depressing question.

The original tweet asks what woman commits suicide in a jail cell after getting a job and being "arrested for a routine traffic stop." Ms. Bland was not arrested for a traffic stop, which is not really a process, nor was she arrested for a traffic violation; rather, she was arrested on the charge of assaulting a public servant, as said earlier in the article.

The [sic] is to reflect that the erroneous statement that Ms. Bland was "arrested for a...traffic stop" is an error of the original tweeter, and not BBC's.

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    +1 for enlightening us on the original. But it does seem an unusual use of [sic]. I think I would simply have placed after being arrested for a routine traffic stop in inverted commas, indicating that it was a direct quotation. People do not normally 'get arrested' for routine traffic offences. – WS2 Jul 17 '15 at 8:50
  • @WS2 the BBC can't add punctuation to someone else's tweet; all they can do is add material in square brackets. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 9:33
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    I don't think this is correct; I think it is an editing error. See my answer. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 9:42
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    @WS2 That whole sentence is in quotes, and the whole purpose of [sic] is to make it clear that a mistake in a quote is an error in the original, not an error of transcription. Adding further punctuation to the quote would fail to make that clear. – Plutor Jul 17 '15 at 11:44
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    Isn't [sic] supposed to be used for errors of expression, like grammatical errors, not errors of intent, like incorrect facts? – Kevin Krumwiede Jul 17 '15 at 23:05
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The original tweet was:

Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested d a routine traffic stop?

Note "d" where the BBC has "for." I suspect that the reporter wrote this:

Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested d [sic] a routine traffic stop?

And then an editor incorrectly "corrected" it to the quote in the BBC piece:

Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested [sic] for a routine traffic stop?

Exal's answer suggests that [sic] indicates that the arrest was not for a traffic stop but for the more serious offense of assaulting a public servant. However, if that were true, [sic] should appear after "for a routine traffic stop," ([sic] always follows the material that it marks):

Who goes on a job interview, gets hired, and commits suicide in a jail cell after being arrested for a routine traffic stop [sic]?

Similarly, Yohann V.'s answer suggests that [sic] is marking an odd or erroneous word, but the word being marked is "arrested" -- which is certainly not erroneous or odd; it is the reason for the arrest that is odd, so, again, [sic] should be at the end of the quote.

  • Sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written", referred to the extra "d" in the tweet. – Cees Timmerman Jul 17 '15 at 15:09
  • @CeesTimmerman but it wasn't an extra d; the d was there instead of something else, most likely "for." If you remove the d from the tweet, you get something that is clearly missing a preposition. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 15:36
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    The "d" may also have been intended to be "during". – cjm Jul 17 '15 at 20:53
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    The trouble with for, as Exal points out, is that it doesn’t make sense. There is no such thing as being arrested for a routine traffic stop—traffic stops are not offenses. If anything, she would have been arrested in a routine traffic stop, or indeed during one. The tweet cited is 139 characters long, which is just one less than the maximum 140 allowed. It seems reasonable that d would be a shorthand way of writing during in this case. For is certainly not an option at all, ’cause that would have made the tweet untweetable. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 18 '15 at 11:07
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    The correct way for the BBC editors to have handled it would of course have been to write, “…after being arrested d[uring] a routine traffic stop”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 18 '15 at 11:08
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Sic does not necessarily denote a spelling mistake. It is an abbreviation of the latin sic erat scriptum, roughly translatable to thus was it written. It is meant to indicate that the quotation was copied exactly. It is not limited to spelling mistakes and can also mean:

  • Incorrect information
  • Unusual word usage/spelling
  • Archaic word usage/spelling

It does not necessarily even mean that there is an error. The information may be correct, but might be interpreted as an error by some. At the end of the day this indicates that any confusion stems from the source and not the writer.

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    Your answer is the one addressing the question in the sense most relevant to this site. (!). – einpoklum Jul 18 '15 at 10:06

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