Sep 3, 2021

Pronunciation of GIF

6 minute read
Michael Aubry

There have been multiple and even larger firey-debated topics in all centuries, decades, or even years. this is more true these days where accessibility and new tech are a norm, making it easier for us to debate about anything or consider anything to be debatable-we'll discuss almost anything.

However, there is nothing more debatable in the English language than debates regarding pronunciations.

Gif Pronunciation Debate

A specific part of the majority likes to debate issues immensely and significantly as the web design and development community.

We certainly have had great debates about many extravagant and or extreme importance topics, but the truth is told, we debate about the weirdest and stupidest stuff, too, and more often than not.

An excellent example of such a debate is nothing other than debating upon the pronunciation and justification of an image format: GIF.

Some people even go too crazy lengths to dedicate or create entire websites for this cause to justify which pronunciation is better and which is not. Wacko, right?

Let us dive deeper into what caused the gif to be pronounced a certain way and what caused people to resent it too much . or maybe we just like drama. Who knows?


Acronym for those seconds repeated animates became a hit after gifs were introduced and were considered a norm. Whether a hard g or a soft g to use depends upon your choice of the side you wish to support.

Here is a brief scene of evens and evidence from all the sides as to how to pronounce GIF, one of the most hotted and  greatest debates of internet history

Gif controversy

The gif controversy has long been standing in the world of graphics and animation. The Graphic Interchange Format or GIF, later to be proven to be pronounced as JIF, was one of the most highlighted controversies ever.

This was made awfully public when Steve Willhite emphasized that the G is pronounced with a soft g rather than a hard g.

According to his justification, this specific pronunciation is targeted to mimic Jif's American peanut butter brand. There were rumors that Steve would often joke with his fellow workers that choosy developers pick GIF (if).

So, why is this a hot topic for debates and judgment? There is no exception or rule to name something. this is simply one of many existing examples that show that something like this is completely understandable, acceptable, and doable without explaining. This shows the power of the majority.

Since there is no acronym pronunciation rule to override or compete or justify the pronunciation rule for using a soft ‘g' when followed by an ‘i', and as the greater did not specify GIF being said with a hard 'g.' Rather, all the rules point to pronouncing it JIF.

Many people don't know the reason to pronounce it the way it is. They think that something should be pronounced away because of all the grammar and English rules.

This does not allow them to be open-minded of the countless possibilities outside of an educational environment, pronunciation, and language. The oxford dictionary stated that both of the pronunciations were acceptable.

So How Do I Pronounce GIF?-Oxford English Dictionary

Even if the pronunciation of gif has been a pretty long debate, people have become accustomed to pronouncing it with a soft g.

This makes it evident that GIF is pronounced as JIF. This was all acceptable due to one unique phenomenon. Due to a JIF company famous for its peanut butter, no one would have considered pronouncing G with a soft g.

Considering  Steve Wilhite, when he took to explain the   pronunciation of GIF, he himself had to explicitly and making it obviously had to write, “It's pronounced ‘JIF.'”

He had to explain it this way because it goes against how it would naturally be pronounced and thus had to dumb it down and justify his choice.

Phonetics GIF

Phonetics GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. Word “graphics” has always been pronounced with a hard g.

Usually speaking, when a word starts with g, accompanied by a vowel as a, i, e, o, u, followed by an f, it is preferred or ruled to be pronounced with a hard G. (Think ‘Gift' or ‘Guffaw.') if you pronounce gif with a hard g and prefer it that way or that it comes to you easily or naturally.

Well, here's probably why. GIF or JIF, even when  GIF's creator has countless times has argued and pressed on the matter for it to be pronounced with a soft g since its creation, many haven't been able to digest this thought and concept and probably find it difficult to get behind this motive.  Why is it the correct pronunciation? It's the most obvious and logical way to pronounce it.

This being one of the reasons when someone comes across it for the first time or even see it, the first thought that comes across their mind is to pronounce it with a hard g.

How is this a justifiable pronunciation? Every word that starts with g, then a vowel, then an f, is pronounced with a hard g. For example gulf, gift, guff

Most of the one-syllable words that start with G have a hard g: gab, gad, gag, gal, gam, gap, gas, gay, get, gig, God, gone, gore. Explanations that back up this statement are that "lexical neighbors" are the word formations in your mental dictionary (lexicon) that are distinct from others by one sound as Davidson says that in the case of GIF, it's only one sound off from "gift," hence making it an incredible and exceptionally close lexical neighbor.

Furthermore, every word that starts with G, then a vowel, then an F, is pronounced with a hard G, according to a GIF truther website run by Aaron Bazinet.

For example, Gaffe. Gift. Guff. If we consider a  computer, it would probably pronounce the acronym with a hard g. Text-to-speech software is capable of using both phonetic dictionaries.

Short History of the Graphics Interchange Format

the beginning of GIF was as a data format as it was a set standard for encoding and decoding strings for digital signals 1s and 0s. However, quickly, the role of a gif was more than just that. Now it has a more extensive meaning behind its existence.

It consists of an ethos; it is continuously evolving with the change in contexts and aesthetics. GIFs are not seen on the big screens or theaters.

But are meant for and are frequently seen on our digital screens and smartphones that are physically private but socially public.

They are not simply viewed and looked at; they are created, used, posted, collected, copied, modified, performed. Today gifs are viewed as an ambition or motion animate that is put on repeat or in a loop and is limited.

It has an unknown creator or someone anonymous; it is usually viewed by individuals and groups alike or their personal devices and can be used as a form of expression through moving pictures and funky texts or captions. It is shared casually as a form of identity-making, a cinema of affiliation.

Gifs have a shared quality with optical toys and gadgets, the 19th-century devices that were the stepping stone for moving pictures and cinematic revolution, though this does not imply causality between the two.

The old toys were for education, focusing attention on the devices and the physiological phenomenon, called ‘persistence of vision,’ they revealed. Phenakistoscopes (1832), zoetropes (1834), and praxinoscopes (1877) offered primarily symmetrical and seamless loops, often illustrations of people or animals in motion.

These illustrations and pictorial representation of many figures were in the loop in a continuation until the devices were ultimately stooped by the user or suit's loss of momentum. These objects were viewer-activated, intended for an audience of one or a few near the image.

The OG Gif was called 87a. In 1989, CompuServe released an enhanced version, called 89a, that added animation delays, transparent background colors, and storage of application-specific metadata.

The 89a specification also supports incorporating text labels as text (not embedding them in the graphical data). Still, as there is little control over display fonts, this feature is not widely used.

Conclusion to Animated GIFs

Animated gifs have become a revolutionary form of expression, much like emojis. However, this allows users to incorporate texts, captions, and relatable references from different movies and series.

This allows users to be more engaged with their work and forms of textual communications. Hence apart from the debate on the pronunciation of its name, it is still famous for obvious reasons.

Plus, considering its origin and history, it is a very flexible and adaptable implementation of animations that will extend its usability with time and further discoveries.

Michael Aubry

Hey 👋 I am the founder and maker of Motionbox. My mission is to build useful tools in the video space. I enjoy science, art, and sports. Feel free to reach out to me.

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