Finally, a Way Out of the GIF Pronunciation Quagmire!

More

Animated GIFs get pronounced "gif" as in "gift"; still GIFs get pronounced "jif" as in "jiffy."   

catwar.gif

I love animated GIFs. They're simple, they're old school, they play universally with no plugins. What other format lends itself to sports analysiswalkabouts and 17th century astronomy?


Yet for something so profound, the pronunciation battles are fierce - hard G or soft G?

Despite the letters of the acronym standing for Graphics Interchange Format, Rebecca Greenfield shows fairly conclusively that the GIF creators at Compuserve preferred "jiff." Yet many prefer the hard G.

I was actually on the internet in 1989 and I use a hard G -- something about 'jiff' just rubs me the wrong way. But the opposite is also true for some. Grist's Philip Bump called the hard G* pronunciation, "Sacrilege akin to Galileo. (If he'd been wrong.)" He is far from alone in his ecclesiastical adherence to one or the other of the ways of saying the word. So, we are stuck in a permanent war over how to say a very common word. It's as if every other American said, "shedule" instead of the hard pronunciation "skedule."

But maybe we can solve this problem by making it bigger. I've noticed another trend on Twitter: people dropping the 'animated' from animated GIFs. Is this is a result of the 140 character limit, or English doing its thing and simplifying language? 

So I have a modest proposal: to honor those at Compuserve who created such a good thing, let's call single frame GIFs "jiffs", and use the hard G for animated GIFs.

(One final note -- as much as I love GIFs, they are not the most efficient format, either for size or color depth. So let's get animated PNGs standardized, OK?)

* Atlantic editor Alexis Madrigal accidentally transposed Bump's comments. Either that or it was a plot to humiliate Bump, who is vehemently opposed to the hard G pronunciation.

Jump to comments
Presented by

John Oram may or may not be responsible for Burrito Justice, maps of 200ft sea level rise, and historical analysis of Mission intersections.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In