There’s no word at the center of a pronunciation debate quite like “GIF,” and chances are, you’re still not saying it right.
The term stands for Graphics Interchange Format, which are image files that create an animated effect when used in a sequence. You’ve probably seen GIFs more times they you can count.
But how you say the term has been hotly contested for years. Because “G” in GIF stands for “graphics,” common linguistics would indicate the word is said with a “g” sound. But its creator Steve Wilhite infamously opposes that stance: it’s JIF, like the peanut butter, he says.
While accepting a lifetime achievement award for his creation in 2013, Wilhite wasn’t shy about setting the record straight with a projection speech that set the Internet ablaze: “It’s pronounced JIF, not GIF.”
Wilhite developed the GIF in 1987 while he was working at CompuServe, the nation’s first major online service. The company wanted a way to show color weather maps, but didn’t want it to take up too much bandwidth for dial-up connections, according to the New York Times. Instead, he wanted to program an animated image that would convey the same message. The first GIF he ever made was a picture of an airplane.
The GIF celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012, the same year GIF was crowned “Word of the Year” by the Oxford American Dictionary – which, by the way, accepts both pronunciations.
So technically, you can say it however you’d like, but to quote Wilhite, remember: Choosy programmers choose GIF.
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