Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 17 17:45:16 UTC 2007

On 1/17/07, David Bowie <db.list at pmpkn.net> wrote:
> FWIW, i find it spelled "sike" in inscriptions in my middle and high
> school yearbooks (as early as the early 80s).
> The understanding at the time was that it meant something like "piss",
> making it a weaker term to use than "sh?t" (obliteration to avoid
> vulgarity bots). I don't recall ever hearing at the time that it might
> have any relationship to "psych out"--but we *are* talking memories of
> pre- and early teenhood here, so i'm not gonna vouch strongly for
> anything in this paragraph except the "piss" memory, which is rather strong.

That's pretty odd... perhaps that was a localized playground
explanation? (ISTR David grew up in Maryland.) Among NJ teenagers in
the '80s, the link between the interjection /saIk/ (however spelled)
and the verb "psych (out)" was quite strong. Weren't Maryland kids
using /saIk/ to mean "I just deceived you" (i.e, "You've been psyched
[out]")? Or was there some other context of use that would allow it to
be equated with "shit" or "piss"?

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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