If you thought we settled the debate of how to pronounce those looping graphics files as a Gif or Jif, you’d be wrong. It just reignited.
I’m not sure what made Smuckers join the Gif or Jif battle. But quite out of the blue, the company’s Jif Peanut Butter brand just did.
The brand’s website even features its peanut butter jar with its logo spelled as “Gif” instead of “Jif.”
At the center of the debate: Is GIF pronounced with a hard G or a soft G?
First things first: GIF stands for graphic interchange format. You’ve seen GIFs plenty of times. They’re the little looping graphics people often add to comments on social media. Steve Wilhite invented the Graphics Interchange Format 32 years ago.
Way back in 2013, when he accepted a Webby award, he dramatically announced the proper pronunciation:
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.
Well, if he said you pronounce it as “Jif,” shouldn’t that be enough?
Jif Peanut Butter wants the word to pronounce its product one way and the graphic file another way.
Hard G or Soft G?
A lot of the stories I’ve seen about this debate the pronunciation as they throw around the terms Hard G and Soft G. A surprising number of the articles I’ve seen, however, don’t explain the difference.
Since that’s key to the debate, I’ll explain it.
You hear the hard G in words like go or get. A hard G is a G you pronounce with a G sound.
You hear a soft G in words like gym or ginger. And, in the famous brand of peanut butter known as Jif. A soft G is a G you pronounce with a J sound.
How they came up with which sound is “hard” or “soft” is a debate for another day.
Jif Peanut Butter, however, still isn’t having Wilhite’s proclamation.
“When is it OK to call a Gif a “Jif”? the website asks? “Never.”
“Jif® is peanut butter. GIFs are looping animations. SNACK ON THAT,” it continues.
I think they’re a little testy about this thing.
Despite Wilhite’s call for pronouncing the graphics file the same way you’d pronounce the peanut butter, others say there’s a good reason for not doing so.
The G in GIF stands for “graphic.” We don’t pronounce graphic with a J sound, they say, so the abbreviation shouldn’t be pronounced that way, either.
Jif Peanut Butter would certainly agree with that position.