Dear Ms. FEWD,
How do you actually pronounce the image extension, .gif? Is it a hard g, or a soft g?
This continues to be a contentious topic among developers and the general public alike. First off, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. One of the biggest reasons most people assume that the pronunciation of the acronym is a hard g, is because G in GIF stood for “Graphics.” Some use the argument “It’s Graphics, not Jraphics!” Even our current President of the United States, Barack Obama, took this side, and pronounces it with a hard g:
However, this logic is slightly flawed. For instance, the acronym “SCUBA” stands for “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” If we apply this reasoning, then “underwater” would need to be pronounced “ōōnderwater”. Likewise, “NATO” would lose its long “a” sound that the word “Atlantic” does not have.
If you look up the word “gif” in the Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam-Webster Dictionary, they accept both the hard g and soft g. We can then look at the English language to see if there’s an accepted consonant-vowel pattern that can be followed to establish the pronunciation.
C = Consonant V = Vowel
We can see that this letter combination can be extremely tricky, and offers little in the way of language rules as it pertains to pronouncing “gif”.
However, Steve Wilhite, who created GIF while at CompuServe in 1987, put into the original CompuShow documentation, version 8.33, that gif should be pronounced with a soft g. He also would reportedly tell his colleagues at CompuServe “Choosy programmers choose gif,” with a soft g, which was a play on the old Jif peanut butter commercial. He again set the record straight when he accepted the Webby Lifetime Achievement award in 2013.
Mr. Wilhite created and named something that many people use. For a fellow nerd, it’s about respect. I pronounce the acronym “gif” with a soft “g.”
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