Antedating of "Sci-Fi"

Jeff Prucher jprucher at YAHOO.COM
Wed Feb 19 19:07:07 UTC 2014

> On Tuesday, February 18, 2014 2:53 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Sci-Fi"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> SciFi [SIGH-FIE]. Seem to recall a jocular pronunciation [skiffy], maybe by
> Roy of Hollywood, back in the late '70s or early 80's, when he was
> battling
> to air OTR SciFi programs on KPFK.

"Skiffy" seems to have appeared as a pronunciation in the 1970s, and was (and probably still is) used to describe lowest-common-denominator SF. Damon Knight proposed pronouncing "sci-fi" as "skiffy" in his collection "Turning Points," although I can't say whether he was the first to do so. The critic Susan Wood is often associated with this use.

People also use the spelling "skiffy", but generally in a self-deprecating or insider-joking kind of way.

Damon Broderick has a good summation of these uses here:


>      Reminds me of a time when I was browsing in a library, and came across
> a section labeled [puh-LIS-key]; thought it was some sort of Polish
> collection. Eventually, I unzipped POLISCI as <political science>.
> Baffling
> acronyms weren't just invented by internet kids.
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