Pronouncing Sikh

When I was young I swear the news media as a whole used to pronounce the name Sikh as seek. It’s only in the last number of years that the whole of the news media changed to pronouncing members of this group as sick. I was taken aback about it. But I don’t think that it was simply a matter of them finally asking Sikhs themselves how to pronounce the name. I think they were heard decades ago and it was decided that polite society preferred the pronunciation, seek.

The problem in English is that native speakers didn’t want to disrespect Sikhs by calling them “sick” which is a word that for years had nothing but negative connotations. “I’m sick,” sounds like something else and even when the English speaker realizes the mix-up, they are likely to laugh at the Sikh and make them uncomfortable.

But it’s been more likely in recent years for English speakers to ask the group what they want to be called. And one thing that helped permanently tip the scales is the use of the slang sick which means good, or even wonderful. Now, sick can be a very positive word. So I think the change happened for two reasons. I’m glad that slang, at last, was a force for good in this case. This is quite unlike the slang of my childhood.

Political correctness has gotten rid of bad slang from my childhood, that promoted bad stereotypes. “Gypped” meant ripping someone off and was derived from Gypsy. “Welshed” on a deal meant weaseling out of that deal and insulted Welsh people. Chewing someone down meant getting them to go lower than their asking price and was meant to insult Jews.

Have we gotten to the other side of this and now we are using positive words for minority groups? “You’re sick? That’s sick!” Could this be part of a new trend? What new slang could evolve?

How about “She’s so indigenous!” where indigenous means beautiful? How about “She aced the test because she’s black!” where black means smart.

Maybe it’ll be years for this or other positive slang terms to take hold. But it might. Make up your own. Something may stick. Then maybe slang might become something we’re proud of.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet. Now in the Fediverse as
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