"Mic" Rhymes with "Bic"

The short form of the word

This is a microphone. In speech, the word is usually clipped to the shortened form  “mike.” On electronic equipment, the word “microphone” is abbreviated as “mic.” “Mike” is a valid spelling. “Mic” is not.

More repellant to me than the steady drumming of the name Trump in the news is journalists’ use of the abbreviation mic as the spelling of the clipped form of the word microphone.

It was, in effect, hot mics that brought down Nixon—Adam Gropnik in The New Yorker.
Trump on Hot Mic: ‘When You’re a Star … You Can Do Anything’ to Women—headline, NBC News online.
How the shocking hot mic tape of Donald Trump was exposed—headline, CNN online.

Mic rhymes with Bic.

When we speak the shortened form of microphone, we say “mike,” not “mic.” Writing the word as mic flies in the face of English spelling convention.

Yes, I know, English spelling is a web of contradictions, but a spelling like knight reflects historical changes in the language that took place over many generations.

The spelling mic is the result of determined ignorance.

The electronic microphone is a nineteenth-century invention. The shortened form mike for microphone appeared in English in the early twentieth century. The interloper mic was spawned in the 1960s. The new spelling began as an abbreviation for microphone under tiny input ports on electronic recording devices. As an abbreviation, mic. is blameless. It’s the use of the letters mic as a shortened form of the word microphone in printed texts that offends.

There’s nothing wrong with shortening a multisyllabic word like microphone. We do it all the time in English. For example, bus (from omnibus), cab (from cabriolet), plane (from airplane/aeroplane), bike (from bicycle).

English spelling is not perfect, but it has conventions. A word like knight exists within a whole class of similar spellings with similar pronunciations: sight, might, fight, light, blight, Dwight, night, plight, right, tight.

Mic as a spelling of the pronunciation /mīk/ (rhymes with bike) is an unjustifiable aberration. Educated writers should abhor it.

Did I mention that mic rhymes with Bic?

NOTE: Bic is a made-up word like Qantas. Brand names often defy spelling conventions. Qantas does so by spelling the word without a u and still expecting it to be pronounced /kwantas/. In English, the letter q is followed by the letter u at the beginning of words: queen, quack, queer, quaint.

Bic defies spelling convention because the final sound of /k/ in a one-syllable word that contains a short vowel is usually spelled with the letter combination ck. Even with its unconventional spelling, the word Bic belongs to a spelling category that includes the following: tick, click, Mick, sick, tack, Mack, rack, peck, speck, tock, rock, sock, tuck, buck, struck.

According to the way it’s pronounced, the shortened form of microphone belongs with words like bike, hike, like, and pike when it is written.

Eventually the name Trump will fade from the news cycle.

The longevity of mic as a spelling for the pronunciation /mīk/ (mike), on the other hand, will depend upon how effective efforts to improve the quality of American education prove to be.

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