The New York Times reports that cable television's Sci Fi Channel has been renamed Syfy. The pronunciation remains "sigh-fie." The new slogan is "Imagine Greater," and the old SciFi.com website is moving to Syfy.com. The new name was developed by an internal team with the help of San Francisco-based Landor Associates, which is famous (or infamous) for creating corporate names like Lucent, Agilent, and Accenture.
From the Times article:
“We couldn’t own Sci Fi; it’s a genre,” said Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Sci Fi who became the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. “But we can own Syfy.”
Another benefit of the new name is that it is not “throwing the baby away with the bath water,” she added, because it is similar enough to the Sci Fi brand to convey continuity to “the fan-boys and -girls who love the genre.”
Ms. Hammer and her successor as Sci Fi president, Dave Howe, said they had sat through many meetings over the years at which a name change was debated.
The principal reason the idea kept coming up, Mr. Howe said, was a belief “the Sci Fi name is limiting.”
And a little further down:
“The testing we’ve done has been incredibly positive,” Mr. Howe said of the Syfy name, reading what he described as a comment from one participant: “If I were texting, this is how I would spell it.”
Aptly, "Syfy" also looks like a morpheme from an alien vocabulary, perhaps Klingon.
Sci Fi's shrinkage is reminiscent of last year's makeover of Court TV into TruTV. "Tru" was justified as an abbreviation of "true" and also the last three letters of "court" spelled backward.
By the way, "sci-fi" as an abbreviation for "science fiction" was coined in 1954 by Forest J. Ackerman, who died last December at age 92. The wonderful L.A. Times obituary (courtesy of my brother Michael) tells the origin story, which includes this quotation:
Ackerman, a native Angeleno, founded the Boys Scientifiction Club when he was 13, and by his late teens had mastered the international language Esperanto. He created (and presumably named) the comic-book characters Vampirella and Jeanie of Questar.
I can't help wondering what Ackerman would have had to say about "Syfy."
UPDATE: Read what NameWire has to say about Syfy ("Naming from a Galaxy Far, Far Away").
UPDATE #2: CatchThis, the blog of Oakland branding agency Catchword, says: "Science fiction is all about asking 'what if?'; Syfy makes me ask 'WTF?'”
UPDATE #3: Branding guy Rob Frankel takes off the gloves: "Landor, the hack agency that created the name and logo, has once again proven its ineptitude, by charging big bucks for a logo that was probably the result of a junior designer spending an hour or two rendering a 3D line of text in Carrara Pro, completely draining the mark of any values to which sci-fi fans could relate. What you've got there, friends, is a soccer mom's version of what the people at Landor think science fiction ought to be."