Sic your cripple on me?

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Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
I'm reading Khaled Hosseini's new novel and was surprised to come across the expression: What are you going to do, sic your cripple on me? WR dictionary tells me that sic means to incite (particularly a dog) to attack. I know what the phrase means, then, but I'm puzzled because I've never come across the word sic in this sense in BE. Perhaps I've been leading too retiring a life.

I gather that the word comes from seek and is sometimes spelt sick - seek him out is something I've heard said to a dog. Also I'm told that the OED doesn't cite the verb as AE, though all the examples come from the US, the earliest dated 1890.

I imagine it's formed sic, sicced, sicced (?) rather than sic, sought, sought.

Are other BE speakers familiar with this verb? Is it in common use in AE?
 
  • Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    It's certainly not at all unusual to hear its use in AE.

    My dictionaries give "sicked" and "sicking." I can't say I've ever had to write the word.
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I use it, and commonly hear and see it used in the US.

    I found this:

    What verb is used to induce an attack dog to do its thing? Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, was popped last month by a Times editorial for having "sicced federal agencies on runaway Democratic lawmakers." That is derived from the command sic 'em! - a mongrelization of "seek them" - and has appeared in our language as, "He doesn't know sic'm from c'mere."

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/10/features/saf11.php

    It continues on with a discussion on the past tense creating problems.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know about BE, but it's a common term in AE.
    "Are you going to sic your high-priced attorneys on me?"
    Nice example, Bibliolept. Does it mean that the expensive attorneys are in your employ and are going to make my life difficult? or is the suggestion that I'm not in a position to hire these expensive attorneys and would rather employ one for a more modest fee?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I've heard this, but assumed it was a kind of eccentric figurative use of sick = vomit. The kind of people being sicked on someone else were always rather objectionable.

    The OED lists this under sick (v) 2, offering sic as an alternative spelling. As ThomasT says, it makes no mention of its being an AE usage.

    In reference to dogs, the examples date from 1845 and are half-and-half AE/BE. They include one each from PG Wodehouse and Richmal Crompton (The small white dog, evidently mistaking William's contemptuous ‘Huh!’ for a new form of ‘Sick him!’ gave a low growl and sprang forthwith upon the astonished Wotan. William - the Rebel).

    In the more general sense used in this thread, the examples, again from 1845 on, look to me to be mostly AE, though Wodehouse again features (Why should you barge in here, gnashing your bally teeth, just because Horace sicked Claude Polt, private investigator, on to you? Uncle Fred in Springtime).

    WR Forums, educational as ever.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the more general sense used in this thread, the examples, again from 1845 on, look to me to be mostly AE, though Wodehouse again features (Why should you barge in here, gnashing your bally teeth, just because Horace sicked Claude Polt, private investigator, on to you? Uncle Fred in Springtime).

    WR Forums, educational as ever.
    I wonder if there's a misprint in your OED, Panj. The private investigator in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is a fine type called Claude 'Mustard' Pott, and he has a charming daughter called Polly. As you can see I know and love the work and I'm surprised I missed the sick (sic) in it. The names in Wodehouse are nearly always inspired: Jeeves's club is called the Junior Ganymede.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Are other BE speakers familiar with this verb? Is it in common use in AE?
    I've certainly heard it, TT, and I've read it in both the "sic" and "sick" variants. The word itself doesn't have AmE overtones for me, but for some reason the spelling "sic" does.
     
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