Creator tells us how to pronounce 'GIF'


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Jan 6, 2009
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(CNN) -- We can't settle iPhone vs. Android or "Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek" for you. But another long-running geek debate was put to rest Tuesday night.

Those short, animated loops that have captivated the Web for decades? They're pronounced like a brand of peanut butter.

Steve Wilhite created the Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, while working for Compuserve in 1987. On Tuesday, he received a Webby Award for it and delivered his five-word acceptance speech (that's all the Webbys allow) by flashing a GIF on the big screens at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York.

And, in a flash, it all became clear:

"It's pronounced JIF, not GIF."

Of course, in the grand tradition of heated debate, a flat statement of fact by the creator wasn't enough to sway some partisans. On Twitter, "GIF" became a trending topic as some folks pushed back.

"Graphics Interchange Format. Graphics. Not Jraphics. #GIF #hardg," wrote Web designer Dan Cederholm.

"So instead of GIF, we've got to say JIF? YEAH RIGHT," chimed in October Jones, creator of the "Texts From Dog" Tumblr and book. "And I suppose those animals with long necks are called 'JIRAFFES.'"

And, of course, the peanut butter brand was getting lots of free publicity along the way. The always amusing HAL 9000 account (yes, somebody tweets as the robot from "2001") posted an "animated JIF" -- which is to say, a swirling, animated jar of the tasty, high-protein spread.

So, it's perhaps no surprise that the company got into the act itself. Wednesday afternoon, the company took to Twitter with a post reading, "It's pronounced Jif® ." The tweet linked to, what else, a multi-colored GIF flashing the same phrase.

Animated GIFs were a staple of the early Internet. Remember The Dancing Baby? That's a GIF.

They fell out of favor as more advanced graphics technology emerged. But in the past couple of years, the Web has remembered how much fun it is to watch ridiculous things happen over and over again.

Appropriately, Wilhite received his Lifetime Achievement Award from David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, one prominent place where GIFs found a new fanbase.

In less publicized interviews, Wilhite had argued for the soft-G pronunciation for years. So, will a widely covered "speech" in front of some of the Web's most influential folks finally be the turning point?

Maybe not.

Last month, no less an authority than the White House posted an image on its new Tumblr feed advocating for the hard-G. And the Oxford English Dictionary says both pronunciations are acceptable.

So, here's wishing Mr. Wilhite "Jood Luck."

I'll forever say GIF...I don't care WHAT he created. He should of named the extension JIF if he wanted it pronounced his way.
Graphics Interchange Format

Graphics has a hard G. I'm not pronouncing it "Jif" and there's absolutely nothing this *****e can do about it.
I will never ever understand why some people call it JIF.
When did he create this? He's a bit late to the party. If he wanted everyone to say JIF he should've corrected people right at the start instead of allowing years of the "incorrect" pronunciation, which should be more correct anyway since it should be a hard G.

And does he really want it associated with these other products now? Before it was unique and absolutely no ambiguity, because nothing else is called a GIF.


With how it was pronounced before, Wilhite shouldn't have looked a Jift horse in the mouth.
Jif sounds better.

Gif sounds like a 50's nick name for a 8 year old with one of those propeller hats.

I'm willing to debate this for no more than 6 pages.
Now that this is settled, we can move onto the Gil Gerard Paradox.
I've been pronouncing it like Jif, so I'm happy this is settled. Gif with a hard g just sounds wrong.

lol, and the gif master Kane would be the one to post this. :woot:
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I'm sticking with gif with a hard g. Makes more sense given the acronym.

Jif sounds like I'm talking about peanut butter and not a graphic which would only confuse someone who isn't tech savvy.
Jif peanut butter would not go down well in the UK where Jif is associated with sink and bathroom cleaner or lemon juice. I even question the soundness of having Jif lemon juice given that the sink and bathroom cleaner came first and is usually lemon scented.
I've always pronounced it Jif anyway. So Nyah :p
I've always said it like Jif. Only uncultured philistines pronounce a hard G in any word.
There's a JIF peanut butter plant in the town down the road by me...I love to drive by it and smell the air there.
The jift that keeps jiving
The heck with this guy. I'm not going to pronounce something with a J, if the first word the abbreviation stands for begins with a G.
Name is NickNitro but I'd like it to be pronounced SHH! Global Moderator.....
Choosy moms choose GIF.

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