The ‘gif’ vs ‘jif ‘ pronunciation saga – as told by GIFs

23 May 20131 Share

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Steve Wilhite speaking onstage at the 17th annual Webby Awards. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Webby Awards

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This week, the creator of the GIF has declared once and for all that it’s pronounced with a soft G, like ‘jif’, not ‘gif’. This revelation has sent the internet into uproar, and has agitated the jif vs gif debate rather than quelled it.

On Tuesday, Steve Wilhite was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Webby Awards, for bringing us the GIF, or graphics interchange format. These image files can be animated and have been used to spread joy and laughter to many online.

Wilhite’s GIF was first introduced in 1987 by CompuServe, making last year the 25th anniversary of the dynamic file type. Today, GIFs are used in display advertising, as well as to capture short, looped clips of video footage, to generate memes, and more.

Unfortunately, while the internet was certainly in agreement that GIFs are fun to share, arguments on how to pronounce the acronym were rampant, with camps divided into the hard G giffers and the soft G jiffers.

jif vs gif / daffy vs bugs

Via OlsenHome.com

Those on the hard G side and from the US often went with the argument that ‘gif’ refers to an image file, while ‘jif’ refers to a brand of peanut butter. (On this side of the Atlantic, we used to substitute peanut butter for a cleaning product, only they changed the name of that.)

Jif GIF

Via portlandmercury.com

You could say this debate has been raging for 25 years.

cyclical GIF

Via imgur.com

There was no end in sight.

Dog chasing tail GIF

Via lifenpublishing.com

But then, on news of his Webby award, Wilhite tried to clear things up for The New York Times Bits blog. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft G, pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story,” he stated.

Team Hard G was flummoxed.

Dr Who 'What?' GIF

Via Metro.co.uk

For some, the world as they knew it came crashing down.

Crumbling domino pyramid GIF

Via imgur.com

Some were disillusioned to discover they had been saying it wrong this whole time.

Sigh GIF

Via gifparty.tumblr.com

Others seem to think they know better than the father of the GIF.

Prince GIF

Via gifparty.tumblr.com

While some simply could not handle the truth.

Sherlock sulking GIF

Via whatshouldawritercallme.tumblr.com

For the jiffers, this marked a victory.

Julia Roberts laugh GIF

Via dudelol.com

They could afford to be smug.

Heather Morris GIF

Via queenbritt4ny.tumblr.com

If you’ve been saying one thing your whole life and one day have to change, it can be disorienting.

Dog ball fail GIF

Via imgur.com

But don’t feel overwhelmed.

Animated Jif GIF

Via zangen.tumblr.com

There’s no reason to freak out.

Freak out GIF

Via whatshouldawritercallme.tumblr.com

There’ll still be plenty of animated jifs.

Animated Jif GIF

Via imgur.com

Really, there’s only one thing to do.

Deal with it GIF

Via sayitiwithgifs.tumblr.com

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com