Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why not say 'sci fi'?

I used to be part of science fiction fandom, in my teens and twenties, and one of the things that drove us crazy was when people referred to sci fi (pronounced sci fye) instead of SF. I think it was mostly a matter of defining boundaries - we the real science fiction fans knew the correct word to use, while the mundanes (our name for non-SF fans) didn't know what real science fiction was and called it sci fi. Calling it sci fi was a way to belittle the literature (and by extension, us).

Normblog provides a more elegant and literary reason:
Readers, I'm here to tell you that I've now thought of an argument in favour of my prejudice preference. 'Sci fi' is supposed to abbreviate 'science fiction', but it is spoken as if it rhymes with 'hi fi'. What kind of sense does that make? If I say 'in the circs', I wouldn't pronounce 'circs' to rhyme with, say, 'larks', so that it came out 'sarks'. If I say 'peeps', I don't rhyme it with 'hopes' and call them 'popes'. And so on, you get the picture. Accordingly, 'sci fi' ought to be said as if the second syllable was the beginning of the word 'fiction'. But no one says it like that. It would sound silly, as if it had been interrupted by a sponge suddenly being thrust into the mouth of the speaker. From now on I'll be urging this silly pronunciation upon all who say 'sci fye', in the hope of shaming them towards the more elegant 'SF'.

1 comment:

  1. I still won't say "sci-fi" myself, but I realized this was a lost battle with the general public by the mid-Eighties, and have since tried to keep my internal knee-jerk negative response to myself. It's simply what the world knows the field as now, and has for decades. Things change.

    It's hardly the only way sf fandom and its relationship to the world has changed! (But that's a topic of many possible essays.)