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Mike vs. Mic: Which Abbreviation is Correct?

By AudioMan
Updated on Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Category: Microphones, Pro Audio, Recording, Sound Reinforcement

AKG CK93: Is it a Mic or a Mike?It’s a familiar dilemma to those of us who write about audio: What’s the abbreviation for microphone, “mike” or “mic”?

For years (since roughly 1961, in fact), the former abbreviation – “mic” – has been the preferred choice of the pro audio industry.

This does lead to problems, however. When you place a “mic” in front of an amp, is the amp “miced”? Or “miked”? Or (horrors!) “mic’d”? The abbreviation simply refuses to comply with standard English rules for spelling and pronunciation (or common sense, for that matter).

What IS the correct abbreviation for microphone, anyway?

“Mic” Gets the Nod For Now

Just last week, the New York Times weighed in on this venerable debate.

Ben Zimmer, in an “On Language” column, ceded defeat (more or less) to the forces in the pro-audio and production industry that have long preferred the abbreviation “mic.”

But he does so under duress.

While he concedes that “mic” is acceptable as a noun (if we ignore the logical tendency to pronounce it “mick”), once the word becomes a verb, we’re plunged into a world of  sloppy tense forms.

For example, what should readers make of the rodent-esque terms “miced” or “micing”, which clearly dictate a soft “C” sound and a long “I”?

The AP Saves the Day (Sort Of)

The Associated Press, in a unilateral decision earlier this year,  sidesteps that  problem by allowing the past tense form “miked”, and the continuous tense form “miking”. But then, of course, we’re left with a glaring inconsistency in spelling between the noun and verb.

Public opinion (as gleaned from Google search results), at any rate, seems to be firmly in the “mic” camp.

But the argument is far from over. Samuel Bayer (also cited in Zimmer’s column)  makes a strong case for “mike” in this well-researched and entertaining blog post.

But in my eyes, the approved AP spelling (and its verb-form compromise)  seems the best solution to the conundrum- and gradually, you’ll see it reflected across the AudioLinks website.


9 Responses to “Mike vs. Mic: Which Abbreviation is Correct?”

  1. Tim Wahl Says:

    Per the mic vs. mike debate, my two cents. Mic could be the choice no matter what. No need to chew on it being “miced.” Look at it this way with the word picnic, a noun. As a verb it becomes picknicked. “we went on a picnic; we picknicked until lat in the evening. Politics in another one: He is good at politicking.

  2. AudioLinks Team Says:

    Thanks for your great feedback Tim!

    -AudioLinks Team

  3. Pete Says:

    But picnic still rhymes with mick or sick. I’m okay with spelling it mic, so long as you pronounce it accordingly. I’m going to stick with mike.

  4. Ollie Says:

    Tim commented: “Mic could be the choice no matter what”. I don´t get this “no matter what”. Mike sounds as good to me, the contex tells you what we are talking about. Ollie

  5. Adam Says:

    I’m weighing in late here, but as it’s the article that google turned up for me, here is my tuppence’ worth.

    I know that many nouns in the English language can be used as a verb but I wasn’t aware that there is an explicit rule stating that every single noun must be usable as a verb in order for it to qualify as a noun. Is there such a rule?

    Why is it insufficient to simply say “a mic is placed in front of the amp” or that “the mic is connected to the amp” (I’m assuming that is what the auther wishes to imply)? I’m also curious what the abbreviation of a noun has to do with a discussion on whether that abbreviation can be turned into a verb. The two topics seem entirely separate.

  6. Gary Says:

    The key to this debate is the punctuation. The abbreviation should be: mic., or mic'; rather than mic, as the full-stop and appostrophe highlight the abbreviation and hence potential pronounciation issues.

  7. glen roberts Says:

    This is not a matter of opinion. In English, a one syllable word containing one vowel is pronounced short if the consonant following the vowel is NOT followed by the letter e – period. pan, met, rid, dot, run, whinny, trip, pip, hick, trick, dick.
    A one syllable word containing one vowel is pronounced long if the consonant following the vowel IS followed by the letter e – pane, mete, ride, dote, rune, whine, tripe, pipe, hike, trice, dice.
    The letter c used terminally and pronounced like a k makes the vowel before it short – sac, Mac, and is usually spelled with a k, i.e. ck – sack, rack.
    The letter c used terminally and pronounced like an s makes the vowel before it long – lace, mace and is just about always spelled with an e after the c.
    Sticking to rules like this enhances communication and makes it far easier to teach children to read.
    Nerds have too much power. They should not be allowed to change important rules of spelling.

    The use of the three letter abbreviation mic for mike began as an expedient abbreviation when there was a space limitation, just as Jan, Feb, Mon, Tue are expediently used in a list of dates in a column to keep all abbreviations even.
    There is no acceptable tendency to change the names of months and days into those expedient abbreviations. January is still January; Tuesday is still Tuesday.
    Letting nerds screw up the language to suit themselves is a form of institutionalized illiteracy.

  8. Earl Barnholden Says:

    Long live mike –and down with mic.


  9. Steve Says:

    Glen, great summary on the rules of English. To help the nerds who may not have read all the lines, yet alone between the lines, please summarize your preferred forms for abbreviating microphone.

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