Grammar

How Do You Pronounce Gif? Its Creator Answers, But Debate Continues

123RF

You’d think that when the inventor of the image format specified how everyone should pronounce Gif, it would solve the debate. It didn’t.

The debate over how to pronounce Gif has been going on for about as long as the format has been around.

Way back in May of 2013, Steve Wilhite, who invented the Graphics Interchange Format, addressed the issue. At the time, Wilhite used the occasion of accepting a Webby Award as a chance to settle the battle.

For some reason, people who win a Webby are limited to a five-word speech. Even people who win a lifetime achievement award face the limit.

He stepped up on stage and the presenter said Wilhite would use his invention to deliver the speech. The audience watched a big screen for the five words.

Wilhite stood silent while the words, “It’s pronounced ‘JIF,’ not ‘Gif’ appeared, one by one, on the screen to the theme of Also sprach Zarathustra.

Soft G or Hard G?

Though its creator had spoken, the debate didn’t stop. The New York Times reported that the moment sparked 17,000 tweets and 50 news stories.

People began pronouncing the word in whatever manner made sense to them. For some, their guess proved correct.

For those who chose the Hard G sound, which is what you hear in words like go or get, the news wasn’t so good.

A soft G is what you hear in words like gym or ginger. And, in the famous brand of peanut butter known as Jif.

Back then, the Times suggested there was logic for many in assuming Gif required a hard G. You pronounce graphic with a hard G, after all.

But in the case of Wilhite’s creation, as far as he was concerned, the debate was over.

It turns out, Wilhite’s preferred pronunciation does make sense from a linguistic standpoint.

A hard G usually precedes the vowels a, e and o. A soft G precedes vowels i, u and y (when y is used as a vowel).

Despite the argument over the word graphic, when you pronounce Gif as “jif,” you’re following an established pattern.

So just think of that creamy peanut butter the next time you see the word Gif and you’ll be on the right track!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.