Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This little puzzle came to my attention today and got me thinking – is mike or mic short for microphone. Well, in common usage, both are correct. Pubs advertise ‘open mike’ and ‘open mic’ – but publicans are not so often also grammarians, so lets have a look at this sticky problem.

If one is going to be pedantic, and I often am, ‘mike’ is the short form of microphone, and ‘mic’ is the abbreviation of it (used a lot in the audio world). ‘Mike’ is a word, ‘mic’ is not. Bicycle is shortened to ‘bike’, and definitely not ‘bic’ (the latter being a generic name for a ball-point pen).

Which is right and which is wrong? It depends on the world you are working in and writing about. Was that helpful? Probably not. Language is not a science …