Names Have Power. I’m Talking to You, Syfy Channel.

I know I’m way behind the curve on this one. The SciFi channel changed its name back in January, I think. Since my cable package no longer includes the channel, I wasn’t paying much attention. But come on! Syfy? Did they pay a PR firm a whole bunch of money to make that choice?

I’m not a linguistics or pronunciation expert, but it seems to me this does not create the phonetic result they are looking for. Sy-fy does not come out sounding like “Sigh-fie” in English.

Sy—Usually, at the beginning of the word, the y has a short i sound; as in synthesis or synchronicity. So our first syllable not “sigh,” it is “sih.”

Fy—this is harder. At first I thought it would be a short “i” sound too, as in bunny, fluffy and pretty. Then I thought about verbs like terrify, rectify, certify. That’s a long “i” sound. So, when a Y follows a single consonant it has a long “i” sound? Then what about city, pity, and all the states of being: authenticity, ability, etc? It seems to me it’s 50-50 at best that this gets pronounced “Fie.”

Best case scenario, what you would have is “SIH-fie,” which sounds like a bad eye disease, or like the plural of “SIH-fus,” which would probably be a sexually transmitted disease. Is that what they were going for?

The most likely choice is “SIH-fee.” Siffy. Really?

Maybe that is the correct choice after all. The channel never quite made the leap to original programming. They cancelled the excellent Harry Dresden Files series. They’ve got Hangar 13 or whatever it is, and that looks like it’s about it. Networks have sf shows like Lost, Fringe, Flashforward, while vampire tales are going strong on Showtime and even the CW. On the B-movie end of the continuum, their audience is getting nibbled by cable channels like the Monster channel, and Netflicks has put a dent in their cult movie market.

“Siffy” rhymes with “iffy.” Maybe they’re trying to tell us something.

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