Why I Won't Be Pronouncing GIF jif Anytime Soon

Categories: Tech

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I started playing around on the Internet back in the early '90s before there was a fully formed World Wide Web. At that time, the GIF (Graphics Exchange Format) was the image of choice for many things. As the Web grew, so did the GIF. Soon, animation was added and you got things like animated "under construction" graphics and hamster dance. The GIF evolved.

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But as the Web changed, the GIF slowly began to fall out of favor. Sure, you could animate it, but most legit Web sites didn't use that and went with more "modern" technologies like Flash. Soon, the PNG would all but replace the GIF in normal use throughout the Web for graphics on Web sites. Then, a resurgence. The animated GIF was back and stronger than ever thanks to software that easily allows conversion of video clips into the files. Now the ubiquitous graphics file litters Tumblr and blog posts. They are used to make people think and laugh, and replay sports highlights.

And the creator of the GIF had to go and ruin it by telling the world it's actually pronounced "jif."

I should preface this by saying who cares, really? Anyone spending time arguing over the pronunciation of a file extension has a life so good they have time to ARGUE OVER THE PRONUNCIATION OF A FILE EXTENSION. But since there is a debate, I thought I should weigh in.

For me, the way GIF should sound comes down to two things: the pronunciation of the words in the acronym and the common sound of the letter "g."

The word is just short for "Graphics Interchange Format." We do not pronounce it "juh-ra-fik-s," so why should the G suddenly be soft for the acronym? It makes no sense.

And the common use of the letter G is with the hard "guh" sound. It's the reason why most people spell the name Jeff that way instead of Geoff. The use of the soft G (isn't that the name of a modern jazz rapper?) sound was common in old English, but is not routinely used today.

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Setting all that aside, my main bone of contention with this soft G mess is that the vast majority of people have pronounced it with a hard G for over 20 years. Once it becomes part of the common tongue, should we really go messing with it? I say no. For me, GIF it was and GIF it will stay. That's how we do it in 'Merica!

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6 comments
Gorillaboss
Gorillaboss like.author.displayName 1 Like

Elementary school English lessons teach the "G" is (usually) soft when followed by an "e" or an "i".

GIF as "Jif" makes perfect sense, according to basic grammar.

And as for the whole debate on how to pronounce it, I'm pretty sure that deferring to the creator's intent is the way to go.

Marty
Marty

@Gorillaboss Agreed. If GIF is being pronounced as a word on its own, the soft G sound makes more sense to me. 

curaecivem
curaecivem

"...they have time to ARGUE OVER THE PRONUNCIATION OF A FILE EXTENSION. "

Or write about one.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Smedley
Smedley

I've never heard it pronounced any other way than "jif". I'd probably laugh if I heard someone use a hard G, but then... I work in the IT field.

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