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Movie Mom


What does ‘Syfy’ mean?

posted by Nell Minow

Forrest J. Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi” at UCLA in 1954. It is the perfect way to describe the wide range of astonishing, imaginative, mind-expanding works of fiction that are grounded in some element of science, often taking what we know and projecting ideas about future consequences or technologies.
The Sci-Fi Channel, owned by NBC Universal, includes straight-on sci-fi like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Universe” and some non sci-fi programming that appeals to their audience as well. And now they are renaming and rebranding the channel as “Syfy,” infuriating the geeks and bloggers who are their core fan base.
The Chicago Tribune reported:

But the news hit the blogosphere with such fervor that it was as highly searched Monday afternoon on Twitter as the AIG bonus controversy. Reaction on Twitter fell along the lines of: “My instinct is to pronounce it Siphee which sounds like a certain disease. Fail.” Groups have already sprouted on Facebook, including: “Hey ‘SyFy,’ Geeks ARE your audience. Change it back to SCI FI!”

The network says they did this to have a name that could be trademarked. “Sci-Fi” is a generic term in wide use and cannot be owned by anyone. But that does not mean that this is the best they could do. It looks like it should be pronounced “siffy.”
Thanks to my beloved James Robenolt for inspiring this post!



  • Clasqm

    Next: Channels named RomKom and AkshunAdventjoor.
    Of course, the the REAL Science Fiction afficionado, even “SciFi” is an abomination.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Clasqm, you really made me laugh! I know that many of the Comic-Con attendees are okay with “sci-fi” — but you prefer to spell it out?

  • James Robenolt

    All us TRUE Sci Fi fans will never utter the words “siffy” without cringing in a corner and hearing the sound of finger nails across some mythical blackboard. Nay – we begin chomping on said appendages so nervously when seeing our beloved logo (SciFi so sadly morphed and mutilated into SyFy …. or siffy, as most of us believe. A thing that copyright shouldn’t get in the way of something’s TRUE NAME. As we all know in the SciFi and Fantasy world, an objects true name has special powers over it. This false name most certainly won’t have special powers over the group it intends to strike. More likely is that we have the shield of Zeus with us and all that power shall be reflected back upon it’s wielder. We can only hope that the SyFy channel comes to it’s senses in the very near future!
    Many thanks Nell for shining a light where it was growing darkest!

  • Marcy Murninghan

    Thanks SO MUCH for writing this, Nell! When they announced this weeks ago, I did a slow burn: why fix what’s not broken? It’s like the “Real Coke” screw up during the ’80s (that was Pat Caddell’s brainchild, an example of where brilliant political advice falls flat in the business world).
    And you’re right: It sounds like “siffy”, which reminds me of a sexually transmitted disease!
    I hope they go back to the original, with the Saturn logo. I thought it was cool!

  • Cody Duval

    wow thanks alot guys for bringing me info on the ‘syfy’ or siffy, i would love it to change back to sci-fi, its making me want to not watch Siffy anymore

  • http://SyFy joules

    I don’t care what they call it – I will continue to watch. I’m hooked! I miss BSG more than anything.

  • Douglas

    I sometimes use “sci-fi” myself to refer to this
    category of fiction. However, I would never use any
    other spelling or re-spelling of the term in that
    context.
    Other times, I use “SF” or even
    “spec-fic” (speculative fiction) to refer to the larger
    category including science fiction and fantasy.

  • Alicia

    I don’t get cable but do watch the SciFi Channel when I have the opportunity. SyFy is idiotic. And after they spend so much rebranding the channel, they probably won’t want to acknowledge that is was a mistake.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Speculative fiction is my favorite term, too. Thanks, Douglas!

  • Dave

    Sci-Fi says the change was so they could have a trademark-able name? I never realized that ABC, TNT, Fox, Vs, USA, etc., were having major problems with infringement on their names.
    Seems to me that with network names, it shouldn’t be the name itself but the logo (and further, the context of usage) that makes the difference.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    You are so right, Dave!

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