Are there any grammatical errors in the following passage?

"...crazy metal tool … specifically for extracting foreign objects from people’s [sic] nostrils,”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/09/16/embarrassing-ways-hospital_n_7942276.html

  • 1
    No error. Just as a note, [sic] does not always indicate an error, although most often it does. Here, though, the [sic] might be an error on the part of the journalist.
    – sumelic
    Oct 5, 2015 at 10:02
  • 1
    The error is the position of the apostrophe. ...peoples' nostrils.
    – Joe Dark
    Oct 5, 2015 at 10:42
  • 7
    @JoeDark I think not: one removes objects from the nostrils of people, not the nostrils of entire peoples. Oct 5, 2015 at 10:45
  • 5
    @JoeDark Pshaw. You might with equal cogency argue that nostrils should be singular. While it is presumably the case that the tool can only extract objects from the nostrils of one person at a time, it is (again presumably) intended to be used repeatedly. There is no "error" even in the most formal register, and certainly not in a register which employs such language as "crazy metal tool". Oct 5, 2015 at 11:11
  • 1
    @MaulikV It is used to assure the reader that an apparently anomalous expression is in fact correctly quoted. The anomaly may be of any sort, but it will usually be taken by the reader to be a 'mistake'; [sic] informs the reader that if there is a mistake it is not the reporter's. Oct 21, 2015 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


[Sic] does not necessarily denote an error, because taken literally it means "thus," short for "thus was it written." It denotes specifically that you've put the original author's or speaker's text there completely unchanged, and you're sure that you haven't made any mistakes transcribing it.

However, I think that @sumelic and @StoneyB have it right here; ironically, the journalist made an error in examining the original text in placing the marker. I've said it on this site before, but journalists are quite liable to grammar and usage mistakes, more so than many seem to think. Their top priority isn't writing a piece that's completely free of errors, it's writing one that becomes popular. At times, that priority will even be at odds with proper grammar. Maybe the journalist will use some piece of language that is known to be incorrect, but it is currently trending.

  • 2
    Would you mind adding some sources for your answer stating [sic] is not used for mistakes with some useful examples?
    – Maulik V
    Oct 15, 2015 at 5:37
  • @MaulikV For ironic usage, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage quotes, Fred Rodell's Nine Men: A Political History of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1790 to 1955. On page 302, "in 1951, it was the blessing bestowed on Judge Harold Medina's prosecution (sic) of the eleven so-called 'top native Communists,' which...''
    – John B
    Oct 21, 2015 at 20:23
  • @MaulikV Another usage according the dictionary above is "benighted," which is described as writers using it "with a false sense of superiority" or to "belittle the person quoted for ignorance of correct citation form" (in legal documents).
    – John B
    Oct 21, 2015 at 20:30
  • @JohnB mind putting it as an answer?
    – Maulik V
    Oct 22, 2015 at 7:09
  • @MaulikV I only copied the same quote as is in the Wikipedia article that Crazy Eyes provided and a little more information from its referenced source. It's not really a separate answer so much as an addendum :)
    – John B
    Oct 22, 2015 at 14:35

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