Geoff Pullum gnaws at an Edmund Morgan quote from Gore Vidal discussing Lincoln, trying to puzzle out the meaning of an interpolated sic; he finds several possible layers in this quote, and by reproducing it here I’m adding another:

With his centralizing of all power at Washington this “reborn” (sic) union was ready for a world empire that has done us as little good as it has done the world we have made so many messes in.

Geoff may have dashed off his entry a tad hastily, by the way; the sentence “Or was it in the original by Vidal, a sign put there by Vidal to say that Washington really did use the word ‘reborn’?” indicates he’s mistaken Vidal’s reference to the country’s capital for one to its Father.


  1. Or scrambled the twinned-for-convenience-sake “Presidents” who gave their stature to a generic excuse to down tools and sleep in. Rather than city for man, man for man.
    See here:
    or click on ‘ahem’.

  2. Great picture! Here‘s the direct link.

  3. The reference is to Lincoln, not Washington. I assume that Vidal is questioning Lincoln’s use of the word “reborn” in some speech or other. Usually [sic] is used for a grammatical, factual, or spelling error, not simply an opinion that one doesn’t share. Its usefulness is in indicating who made a particular error, but its secondary use is to point out someone else’s error in a snide way.

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