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Inventor Says ‘Jif’ Not ‘Gif’, KQED Newscasters Say Tough

| May 22, 2013
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It’s probably too late, but the inventor of the “gif” file format wants us to pronounce it “jif.”

Like “jpg,” the Graphics Interchange Format, or “gif,” is used to display images on digital devices.  The news came at the 2013 Webby Awards, where Steve Wilhite was honored for the invention. He dropped his bomb by gif, of course.

The edict conflicts with Merriam Webster’s recommendation, not to mention Google Translator‘s, which uses the hard pronounciation from Albanian to Yiddish.

And it has prompted disputes among such authorities as Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny .

The news also came as a surprise in the newsroom of KQED, where a quick survey of reporters found nine out of 10 pronouncing the word with a hard “g.”

If saying gif will instantly prevent people from thinking about peanut butter, then that would be my choice.”

–KQED morning newscaster Joshua Johnson

“In a newscast it’s essential to be accurate but it’s just as essential to be relatable,” said morning anchor Joshua Johnson. “If saying gif will instantly prevent people from thinking about peanut butter, then that would be my choice. But my preference is to avoid jargon altogether. I would probably use ‘graphic image format.’ Jargon instantly limits the number of people who understand the story unless I explain it.”

Silicon Valley reporter Peter Jon Shuler agreed. “Common usage trumps somebody prescribing how something should be pronounced, even if it’s the inventor,” he said. “And the Oxford English Dictionary backs me up on that.” He said he used the hard g pronunciation when reporting on Compuserve, for whom Wilhite invented the format, in the 90s.

At least no one yet has announced that “jpg” must be pronounced as written.

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Category: Media, Tech

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  • http://twitter.com/RAPP81 Rex

    It’s always been “jif”. If any of you remember the old show, Computer Chronicles, which was produced by KCSM and aired on KTEH in the 90s, everyone on that show pronounced it as “jif”!

  • Patrick

    If it was supposed to be pronounced JIF it should have been spelled that way. Just as words can change their meaning over time, so can prononciation, and over time, English users have spoken: it’s GIF.

  • Jen

    Of course it is “jiff.” The g sound is soft when it is followed by the letters i (as in giraffe), e (as in gentry) or y (as in gyroscope). “Gif” = “jiff,” if the rules are followed.

    • Cici

      I’m fine with the “jif” pronunciation, which is how I learned it in the 90s when I learned how to make simple web pages, but please note:

      Gift (give, given, etc.)
      Gill
      Gird
      Gilded
      Girth
      Giggle

      And so on. There are enough “hard g” in front of “i” examples I can think of that I’m not sure rules of grammar make this a slam dunk.

      • http://www.facebook.com/RAPP81 Rex Poblete

        Gin