Pronounce GIF: Format creator honored, confirms how you say it

They’ve surrounded us forever. They’re the little, animated images that you find on horribly designed home-made websites from yesteryear, to the massively-visited sports and social websites of today.

The animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) has proven it is much more popular than the tired old  .bmp, .rips, .figs and many other file formats we’ve seen over the years.

The word ‘GIF’ was even honored as the ‘Word of the Year’ in 2012.

I’ve just discovered the man behind the movement, GIF inventor Steve Wilhite.

I can’t believe I never seeked him out. But he reintroduced himself to the world  by accepting the Lifetime Achievement award at the Webby Awards. Wilhite created the file format in 1987 (the year the Minnesota Twins won the world series, mind you). Those days, it was about distributing movement over internet speeds that would make your overly active mind hemorrhage.

David-Michel Davies, the executive director of The Webby Awards had this to say about the little, animated format:

It’s been an incredibly enduring piece of technology and even as bandwidth has expanded, it has been very exciting to see how much cultural cachet the format has gotten.”

Steve Wilhite worked for CompuServe back in the day. He knew the company wanted to display things like color weather maps, but just couldn’t. Wilhite had an interest in compression technologies so he figured he could help.

A month later, the animated GIF was born.

There’s only one problem. How do you pronounce GIF?

“GIF” or “JIF”?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve said the former…a ‘hard G’ sound.

But sadly, today I learned the actual truth. It’s like the peanut butter. And while the Oxford Dictionary accepts both, Wilhite doesn’t:

They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story, he said.

Sorry, Mr. Wilhite,  while you’re an amazing revolutionary, I don’t think I can find it in my heart to change.

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Josh Benson

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Josh Benson


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