For quite some time I made it a point to use the word “magick” instead of “magic” when talking in terms of spirituality. Somewhere along the line people decided that a distinction had to be made, and that an alternate spelling was the best way to do it. After many years of following along with that mentality, I’ve decided that there’s no point in it, and I’m going to stop using this form of the word.
I know that language changes over time. I hesitate to call it evolving, since the change is often not a good one. In some instances, the use or spelling of a word comes about due to people trying to set themselves apart from others or to overcome some ignorance they perceive. It’s my understanding that the new spelling of magic as magick was devised as a way to differentiate sleight of hand from spiritual practice. Pagans and other spiritualists were trying to battle the ignorance of the general public and not be lumped in with stage performers.
In a way, I can understand this type of thinking. If the word appears different, it automatically triggers the difference in meaning in the reader’s mind. Of course, that trigger is dependent on the reader already knowing the difference and not simply taking it as a misspelling. However, while it does infer a different meaning, it also causes the reader to associate the word with a particular subset of individuals, which may or may not be a good thing. Some people take issue with any non-mainstream religion, so using a word that engenders thoughts of those people may actually be a detriment to the user.
Most people who are aware of the use of the term magick associate it with Paganism. When I was a Pagan I felt it only appropriate to use that spelling. Honestly, I felt like I was obligated to use it. That made me somewhat uncomfortable, but when you associate yourself with a group it’s not uncommon for these things to be expected behavior. When I stopped identifying myself as a Pagan, my feeling of discomfort grew. It’s actually been quite a while since I used the alternate spelling, it’s just not something that I publicly talked about.
Another problem with the alternate spelling is the fact that it doesn’t come across in verbal communication. Short of mispronouncing the word, there’s no way to differentiate it in conversation. Overall, it just seems like it’s unnecessary, and reminds me of when the use of the term “womyn” was so popular. Personally I think our time is better spent simply educating people on the different meanings that a word can have rather than trying to change the language to accommodate those meanings. If a totally new word can’t be created, I don’t see that it truly has much impact. For me, I’ve gone back to using the traditional spelling of the word and I simply make sure that people understand the context.
Are there any group-specific alternate spellings of pronunciations that you use? If so, why? How do you feel about altering words like magick and womyn to create a distinction of meaning and social identification?