Feedback

Creator of GIF files insists it’s ‘jif’ - Internet in turmoil

Gif
Steve Wilhite alerts the crowd of the correct pronunciation of GIF at the 2013 Webby Awards.

And the battle rages on: After the White House weighed in on the "gif" versus "jif" issue, some thought it was settled in favor of a hard "G" — but the creator of the .gif image format himself has made a final pronouncement: "It's a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story."

This bombshell, delivered by former Compuserve engineer Steve Wilhite in an interview with The New York Times' Bits blog, doesn't actually come as much of a surprise. The "official" pronunciation is, and since the format's creation in 1987 has always been, "jif." But a manual written for a defunct company 25 years ago and a live endorsement are two very different things.

Wilhite drove his point home at the Webby awards Tuesday night, where in lieu of a speech in receiving the lifetime achievement award there, a gif was shown insisting on the "jif" pronunciation, to the tune of Strauss's "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

Possum
An example of an animated GIF.

The argument over the name for the popular image format, which has seen a resurgence in popularity on Tumblr and other sites due to its ability to be animated, has gone on for years. And it isn't just stubbornness; both sides have good reason to believe they are right.

Team soft-G refers not only to the authority of the creators at Compuserve, but to words like gin and gibe. And when people say Jif is a kind of peanut butter, they reply: "Yes, and that's the joke the engineers made in 1987, when those 'choosy moms choose Jif' commercials were current!" (Jif, for its part, is celebrating Wilhite's pronouncement via Twitter.)

Team hard-G, on the other hand, points to the G standing for a word with a hard-G sound ("graphics interchange format"), and for support notes words like gift and gill. Some appeal to the same era of computing history, pointing out that a similar format was created a year earlier and was actually called JIF — the two competed briefly, and naturally pronunciation needed to be different to discern between them in speech.

Chances are the conflict will never reach a conclusion, but much like the "soda" versus "pop" controversy and others, will simply smolder on under the surface. However, the last time this came up, our survey showed team hard-G winning by a landslide. Cast your vote in the "grudge match" below.

This post previously misspelled Steve Wilhite's name. Theerror has been corrected.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.