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GIF Talk: Do You Say It With A G Or A J?

Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF file, was given a lifetime achievement award at the 17th annual Webby Awards Tuesday night in New York City. Don't congratulate him the wrong way: To him, GIF sounds like Jif.
Stephen Lovekin
/
Getty Images for The Webby Awards
Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF file, was given a lifetime achievement award at the 17th annual Webby Awards Tuesday night in New York City. Don't congratulate him the wrong way: To him, GIF sounds like Jif.

The kerfuffle Tuesday and today on Twitter about the "news" that the creator of the GIF gets annoyed if he hears someone use a hard "G" when pronouncing the name of his file format triggered our aging memory banks.

Hadn't we heard a while back that GIF creator Steve Wilhite and many other tech types insist it's supposed to be pronounced with a soft "J," like Jif peanut butter?

Yes we had. Check Eyder's post from last November, when he noted that GIF was the Oxford Dictionary's American word of the year for 2012. He wrote that:

"Technology enthusiasts insist on pronouncing it like the peanut butter brand Jif."

Still, as Eyder was careful to add, "Oxford points out that the 'the pronunciation with a hard gis now very widespread and readily understood.' "

Side note: Eyder, who isn't here today, knows about mispronunciations. He's too polite to correct the many folks, even at NPR, who call him I-der rather than A-der. But if this blogger is called ma-MOTT, rather than MEH-mitt, he will point that out.

Back to GIFs. We did an informal survey of some tech-savvy types in the NPR newsroom and they insisted they won't be intimidated into saying it the way Wilhite and others want. To them, it's GIF with a hard "G."

We wonder if Two-Way readers are so hard-headed. So, the question is:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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