It has often been said that if you take all the geeks in the world and put them end to end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. So it is with the debate about the pronunciation of the GIF file format (it stands for “graphics interchange format”), the graphics format that has become a fixture in modern internet culture.

Created in 1987 by Steve Whilhite during his employment at Compuserve, GIF files allowed animated images to be distributed first on dialup services, and then on the internet. It’s still in use today, though its pronunciation depends on who you talk to. It’s spelled with a “G”, so you could be given a pass on it if you thought it was pronounced with a hard “G”.

It isn’t. It’s a soft “G”, as in “giraffe”, or “Gerald”, or like the second “G” in “garage”.

Whilhite himself set the matter to rest once and for all in 2013 when he accepted his Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement. In his five-word acceptance speech (that’s all the Webby Awards allow), he said:

“It’s pronounced ‘Jif’, not ‘Gif’.”

We’re Not Sure What To Think About This

New peanut butter jars are being released by Smucker’s, the makers of The jars, which are being released in time for National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day on March 1st. They use the iconic Jif label to highlight their claim that saying “jif with a soft G” is entirely for peanut butter. Important industry leaders, who should know better, choose to contradict Whilhite and declare the pronunciation of the word as other than how its creator defined it, and then declaring the matter “settled”.

They’re taking it a step further by raking the muck on Twitter, and sticking the debate to their branding, and even going so far as to sell collector’s jars on Amazon.

In our opinion, this simply makes them look rude and passive-aggressive.

We think we agree with JohnTDrake. Just because you’re the Nerdist – or Smucker’s – doesn’t mean you’re right. Commercializing the debate to boost your own brand, lying about the origins of the word, and diminishing the reputation of its creator for your own gain? That’s arguably worse.


SCIFI Radio Staff
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