Green Room

Confirmed: “GIF” is pronounced with a soft “G”

posted at 2:17 pm on May 22, 2013 by

The more refined and well educated among us already knew that.

Among the thousands of file formats that exist in modern computing, the GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, has attained celebrity status in a sea of lesser-known BMPs, RIPs, FIGs and MIFFs. It was honored as a “word of the year” in 2012, and Tuesday night, its inventor, Steve Wilhite, will be accepting a lifetime achievement award at The Webby Awards…

He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format.

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

End of story. And yet the battle rages: GIF as in “gift” or GIF as in “gin”? The latter is obviously correct. We’re dealing with an acronym here, in which case why not go with the more mellifluous pronounciation? Soft “G” makes the word sound impish and breezy. Hard “G” makes it sound like you’re grunting under your breath from some sort of spasm. C’mon, people.

Suggested compromise position: Pronounce it gee-eye-eff and call it a day.

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Comment pages: 1 2

“J”RAPHICS ? Really?

Pork-Chop on May 22, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Giraffe-ics!

James on May 22, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Who the hell uses “GIF” in a sentence regularly enough to care?

And more to the point, how on earth did it get to be the word of the year?

They’re really making a serious run against TIME in the “most inane X-of-the-year” contest. (I have faith that TIME will prevail, though.)

RINO in Name Only on May 22, 2013 at 5:58 PM

They’ve told stories at times of people that had personally pronounced this with a soft G, in the fashion of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned message boards, and generally ravaged the Internet in addition to the normal trolling…

Really. Do you want to sound like that guy?

Gingotts on May 22, 2013 at 5:58 PM

So how do you pronounce “gesso?” Because I don’t want to sound like a dummkopf at the art supply store.

bour3 on May 22, 2013 at 6:02 PM

It’s of course silly, it will always be ‘gif as in gift’ to me, as ‘Graphics International Format’ – the ‘Gr’ in Graphics is the same g as the ‘g’ in gift.

JIF is peanut butter.

RiverCocytus on May 22, 2013 at 6:03 PM

I’m going to pronounce it with a hard G.

Karmashock on May 22, 2013 at 6:04 PM

GIF as in “gift”

That’s how i’ve always pronounced it, not sure how you get anything else when the G represents “graphics”.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Jif? Is it a file and a peanut butter?

RadClown on May 22, 2013 at 6:19 PM

They’ve told stories at times of people that had personally pronounced this with a soft G, in the fashion of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned message boards, and generally ravaged the Internet in addition to the normal trolling…

Really. Do you want to sound like that guy?

Gingotts on May 22, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Egcellent.
By the way. A government funded Smithsonian exhibit taught us that (J)enghis Khan was the Father of Democracy.…and also a champion for women.

egmont on May 22, 2013 at 6:31 PM

The acronym ‘RBI’ is already used to represent both singular and plural baseball statistics. If you say the words it represents, you have to differentiate between ‘a Run Batted In’ and ‘Runs Batted In’ but it makes no difference to the acronym.

However, since you don’t capitalize prepositions, it should actually be ‘RBi.’ Also, ending with a preposition is a no-no as well, so the correct format should be ‘BiR.’

And the plural of that is obviously ‘BiRs.’

James on May 22, 2013 at 5:32 PM

If the plural is the same as the singular, on the theory that it’s “runs” batted in, rather than run batted ins, you have to say “a RBI,” because it’s “a run.” If you say “an RBI,” which is obviously correct, it means that the acronym is a separate linguistic entity that has its own status, including singular and plural (RBIs). Historically, everyone always said “RBIs” until a few years ago, when some fool, probably on ESPN, started feigning erudition.

By the way, my son uses the term “RsBI,” but he’s a wiseguy.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on May 22, 2013 at 6:44 PM

The more refined and well educated among us already knew that.

Who, the Libs?

LOL

I always pronounce it with a hard “g”-stands for “graphics”, not “giraffe” or “gelato”.

What’s next? “Jaranimals”?

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 22, 2013 at 8:24 PM

I’ve always said it like Gift.

Who knew. The word “gif” implies a hard G.

lorien1973 on May 22, 2013 at 8:32 PM

Huh. Go figure.

And here I thought that pronouncing it with a soft “g” would cause unnecessary confusion and comparisons to peanut butter.

KingGold on May 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

LOL … which is why I also pronounce it with a hard G, for what it stands for: GRAPHIC Interchange Format.

thedude on May 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM

I’m a graphic designer, too, and every so often, some pretentious person has said to me oh-so-snottily: “It’s .JIF,” immediately followed by my very heavy sigh and much eye-rolling.

Great. Now next question: Should we pronounce JPG “JAY-PEG” or “HAY-PEG?”

Rich H on May 22, 2013 at 2:57 PM

“YAY-PEG”, maybe?

peski on May 22, 2013 at 3:13 PM

LOLOLOL! Now I’m never going to look at that file format again — and I deal with a lot of photographs on a daily basis — without bursting into laughter. Thanks to you both for your wit.

PatriotGal2257 on May 22, 2013 at 8:49 PM

So how do you pronounce “gesso?” Because I don’t want to sound like a dummkopf at the art supply store.

bour3 on May 22, 2013 at 6:02 PM

BWAHAHAHA!

PatriotGal2257 on May 22, 2013 at 8:55 PM

End of story. And yet the battle rages: GIF as in “gift” or GIF as in “gin”? The latter is obviously correct. We’re dealing with an acronym here, in which case why not go with the more mellifluous pronounciation? Soft “G” makes the word sound impish and breezy. Hard “G” makes it sound like you’re grunting under your breath from some sort of spasm. C’mon, people.

Um. I’ve never anyone say “jif,” and I’ve written graphics software for a couple decades now. In fact, I’d probably want to fire you for being a complete dumbass who can’t even pronounce gif correctly if you said “jif.” First, I’d make a John Kerry snoot joke — jenjis kahn — but then I’d definitely look you over.

But feel free. Apparently, lots of people say “jif.”

WRONG.
Hello? I’m a graphic designer/animator by trade and I create animated GIF files professionally on a regular basis. And to my knowledge, to this day, I have never heard ANYONE pronounce it as a “JIF” … If someone asked me about a “JIF” on a casual work day, I would wonder what the heck they are talking about.

thedude on May 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM

‘Zactly.

By the way, there is already an obscure format extension, “jif” — for JIFF compliant images (like hay-pegs).

Axe on May 22, 2013 at 9:26 PM

pronouncing ‘gif’ as ‘jif’ is definitely a smell test for pretentious erudition.

After jay-peg, (jay-pee-gee) we’ll address .png.

is it ‘PING’? where is the I??????

After that, we’ll be treated to the makers of lighttpd telling us it is pronounced ‘lighty’ and not ‘light-tee-pee-dee.’

Finally, we’ll have a panel to debate whether it is feasible to simplify ‘php’ to a ‘pfft’ sound.

.py can only be pronounced by spitting on the person next to you.

RiverCocytus on May 22, 2013 at 9:28 PM

.py can only be pronounced by spitting on the person next to you.

RiverCocytus on May 22, 2013 at 9:28 PM

I kept trying to say, S,C,S,I to the guy at the store once. He kept correcting me to “Scuzzy.” I didn’t want to say “Scuzzi.” I’m tired of pronouncing acronyms, I wanted to explain.

The cops sorted us out. :)

Axe on May 22, 2013 at 9:34 PM

That’s how i’ve always pronounced it, not sure how you get anything else when the G represents “graphics”.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

BINGO. +1000

thedude on May 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM

I hate you. You are the guy who made that animated guy with the shovel digging under the sign of Perpetual Under Construction, right?

Or the guy who made the leaping puppy. Or maybe the ever-burning flames…

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Next up: the ghost of Cervantes announces quixotic is pronounced “key-ho-tic”

DarthBrooks on May 23, 2013 at 12:49 AM

As Taranto would say, quite a kerfuffle over nothing.

Marcola on May 23, 2013 at 1:05 AM

How about Golf India Foxtrot :).
Also I pronounce gesso as “djess-o”, and have never been laughed out of the art supplies store.

c4 on May 23, 2013 at 1:45 AM

It’s “jIF” since the original version was a “jFIF” code file, a variant of JPEG. The final “Graphics Interchange File” version retains the pronunciation as an acknowledgement of its beginnings.

truth2power on May 23, 2013 at 2:24 AM

That’s how i’ve always pronounced it, not sure how you get anything else when the G represents “graphics”.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

My thoughts exactly. Now, all you nerds out there, GIF a life.

Odysseus on May 23, 2013 at 8:06 AM

Taliban or Tah-lee-bahn …?

TarheelBen on May 23, 2013 at 8:23 AM

An engineer doesn’t know how language works?

Big surprise!

RiverCocytus on May 23, 2013 at 8:36 AM

However, since you don’t capitalize prepositions, it should actually be ‘RBi.’ Also, ending with a preposition is a no-no as well, so the correct format should be ‘BiR.’

And the plural of that is obviously ‘BiRs.’

James on May 22, 2013 at 5:32 PM

To avoid the above no-no, I would prefer “Runs in which were Batted.” It would make for a rough acronym, but I like to complicate things.

Nick_Angel on May 23, 2013 at 8:56 AM

I’ll stick with the hard G, especially since the first word in the acronym is “graphic”.

NotCoach on May 23, 2013 at 9:22 AM

It’s G-G-GIFFF, cause I damn well said so.

Axeman on May 23, 2013 at 9:54 AM

is it ‘PING’? where is the I??????

RiverCocytus on May 22, 2013 at 9:28 PM

It’s “understood”…by those of us who understand things….

Axeman on May 23, 2013 at 9:58 AM

In other news, the slang term “gay” used to describe those of homophile persuasion, is correctly pronounced with a soft “g”.

The word “gay” as an adjective for happy or joyful is pronounced with a hard “g”.

Nutstuyu on May 23, 2013 at 9:58 AM

He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format.

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

So I’m just curious, what is the linguistic evidence the O.E.D. provides to justify their decision?
Are there rules, linguistically, that provide for how to pronounce acronyms?
Bcs really, if there aren’t, then I will continue to pronounce any & all acronyms however the eff I want.

Badger40 on May 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

That’s how i’ve always pronounced it, not sure how you get anything else when the G represents “graphics”.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Obviously, you don’t know how the Austrian language works.

Nutstuyu on May 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Pronunciation of words changes over time, and only current usage in for the purpose of communication matters. There are no Czars of Language, despite the feeble protestations of the French, and other beta-people.

peski on May 22, 2013 at 2:35 PM

While in this case, I could care less. IN the case of meaning, I care a lot.
Inattention to language & the meanings of words is why people feel justified in violating the Constitution.

Badger40 on May 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM

By the way, my son uses the term “RsBI,” but he’s a wiseguy.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on May 22, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Well the next time he says “RsBI” agree with him. (“Arse be I.”?)

Besides, acronyms don’t work that way. An acronym is a word, and it has plurals applied in the standard manner of single words.

Axeman on May 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM

So I’m just curious, what is the linguistic evidence the O.E.D. provides to justify their decision?
Are there rules, linguistically, that provide for how to pronounce acronyms?
Bcs really, if there aren’t, then I will continue to pronounce any & all acronyms however the eff I want.

Badger40 on May 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

You’re head must explode when you hear how Brett Favre pronounces his name!

From an email to “The GIF Pronunciation Page”:

The “Correct Pronunciation of ‘GIF’” page made me laugh for a good 5 minutes. It reminds me of the age old debate of “How to pronounce ‘Geocities.’” That argument ended up with someone actually calling the Geocities offices to see how the phone operators answered the phone. (“Hello, Geo Cities,” not “Hello, Geocities [g-os-ities],” just so you know. You probably already do, anyways.)

Anti-Control on May 23, 2013 at 10:07 AM

You’re head must explode when you hear how Brett Favre pronounces his name!

Anti-Control on May 23, 2013 at 10:07 AM

LOL! Nah. But I just love how someone just gets to ‘decide’ what’s acceptable based on nothing concrete.
Slippery slopes originate somewhere.

Badger40 on May 23, 2013 at 10:42 AM

LOL! Nah. But I just love how someone just gets to ‘decide’ what’s acceptable based on nothing concrete.
Slippery slopes originate somewhere.

Badger40 on May 23, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I am sorry I misread your earlier post – I see that you are not one of the people it should have been directed at! :)

Anti-Control on May 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM

1) I wonder how he pronounces Aluminium :-)

2) jiff ruins the joke (or is that Goke) “Beware Geeks bearing Gifs.”

The_Livewire on May 23, 2013 at 2:14 PM

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