How to Pronounce GIF
February 25th, 2021
Buckle up, y’all- this is going to be a controversial blog post. Let’s jump right into the ultimate internet culture controversy- GIFs. We all know and love them. But how do we pronounce the word? This has been an issue from day one. Since this is such a hot-button topic, we’re going to try to keep things unbiased and give you just the facts.
Origins of the word
A GIF is an animated image file that was originally designed for graphics, but they’re mostly used for simple animated images nowadays. Animated GIFs were a staple of the early Internet and have made a reemergence with the rising popularity of social media.
This animated file format was designed by Steve Wilhite while he was working for CompuServe in June of 1987. Steve Wilhite started the GIF pronunciation controversy when he publicly announced that the word GIF should be pronounced with a soft G. According to him, this pronunciation is specifically aimed to echo the American peanut butter brand, Jif. Rumor has it that he would often joke with his coworkers that “Choosy developers choose GIF (jif).”
So, why is this topic so heavily debated? Well, that’s because it goes against the basic rules of phonetics that we’re all familiar with.
GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. The word “graphics” is pronounced with a hard G. Typically, when a word starts with G, then a vowel, then an F, is pronounced with a hard G. (Think ‘Gift’ or ‘Guffaw.’) If you pronounce GIF with a hard G, this is probably why.
GIF or JIF
While GIF’s creator has painstakingly argued for it to be pronounced with a soft g since its creation, many haven’t been able to get on board. Even the White House has advocated for the hard-G pronunciation of the word. And in the midst of all this controversy, the ultimate English language expert, The Oxford English Dictionary, says both pronunciations are acceptable. So, maybe we’ll never know!
Here’s wishing you a jood day, whichever side of the aisle you are on. You can send all hate mail and GIF pronunciation thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.