GIF Pronunciation Page

Finally, archaeological evidence for the correct pronunciation of the acronym “GIF.” Not sure about the claim that Mac users tend to say GIF and Windows users JIF — never noticed a correlation there, but it does lead to a great user comment on the site:

First of all let me say that Mac zealots should be rounded up into cattle cars, gassed to death and incinerated to make certain there is no remaining genetic material that might infect the rest of the gene pool. I group Mac-heads with NAMBLA, the flat earth society and regional militia. I say this merely to point out that how violently I would oppose aligning myself with this much confused group. However, there can be only one correct pronunciation of the acronym GIF. And that pronunciation begins with a hard G as you would find in the word “graphic”. Still have trouble forming the correct sound? Try this. Begin to say GIF as if you were saying the word “graphic”, abandon the final six letters as you slip into the acronym. GIF, there you’ve said it correctly.

I agree with this guy (about the pronunciation part), but will defer to the authors of the format and return to using “JIF” in pronunciation. Even if it’s wrong. Dammit.

Thanks baald

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14 Replies to “GIF Pronunciation Page”

  1. Bah. It’s jif, like the peanut butter. And the format isn’t used so much anymore, so who cares, anyway?

  2. seems to me the jif pronunciation is based on the misconception that a g before an i /must/ be soft (rather can /can/ be soft). or i wonder if they give each other jifts on their birthdays?

  3. The word gift is exactly why the file format needs to be pronounced jif. Word pronunciations are, as often as not, for the convenience of the speaker.

  4. > The word gift is exactly why the file format needs to be pronounced jif

    What do you mean by that Jim? I’d say that gift is exactly why it *should* be prounced gif. Or do you mean to avoid confusion? I think context gives us enough of that.

  5. Hah, well the original authors of the format were wrong, and I am right :-)

    I don’t know anyone who pronounces it Jif (perhaps because in the UK, Jif was a type of cream for cleaning baths, sinks and toilets. Recently renamed Cif [pronounced “siff”]. [Sigh]). For me it will always be Gif as in Gift, just as BeOS will always be pronounced Beos, not Bee Oh Ess, despite what the original authors say.

    Mind you, I guess I’m a hypocrite as I still get wound up when people say “line-ux” instead of “linn-ux”. Sadly I seem to be one of the few remaining who knows how to pronounce this word correctly: even hardcore linux geeks who I meet nowadays always seem to use the former pronunciation.

  6. Of course, Linus Torvalds pronounces it “LEE-nooks” based on the way his own name sounds (“LEE-noos”). So even “linn-ux” is a bad Americanization of the name :)

    There’s a famous sound file avail of Linus pronouncing this, if anyone’s interested.

  7. Jif (as in the peanutbutter) to avoid confusion with gift, yes. To my knowledge, American English has only one other natural word (as opposed to the brand name) with jif in it, and that is jiffy, which is easily distinguishable by having two syllables and the accent on the second syllable.

    It also rolls off the tongue better when talking about formats – ‘jifs’, jpegs, and pings, for example.

    I just think a word that begins with a glottal stop (the hard G) and ends with a fricative (f) is awkward to pronounce, I guess. Gift begins with a glottal stop but ends with a hard alviolar stop (t), which somehow seems more natural.

    I’m not going to tell others how to pronounce it, nor pretend I don’t know what you’re talking about if you use the hard g pronunciation, but I’m going to stick with the one I’ve been using. And yes, I’m a mac user, too, so nyaa. :)


  8. re: BeOS, I entirely agree. Be os. Dos wasn’t d-o-s, it was dos. ProDOS wasn’t PRO D O S, it was ProDOS. BeOS is again the most convenient way to say it, it makes the word iambic, (stress on the second syllable) which most multi-syllabic English words are.

    I suspect that most synthetic words that are multi-syllabic – BeOS, jpeg, and so forth – will tend to migrate to an iambic stress pattern. This is how language evolves. Never forget that it is a human construct and one of its evolutionary constraints is speaker convenience.


  9. Why are we still worrying about how to pronounce a file format that no one should be using anyhow? The GIF standard is copyrighted (as is the compression used in JPEG); we should all have long since switched to PNG by now. Pronounced “Pinj” of course.

  10. Tweney – Agreed on GIF, but PNG is not a good format for working with photographic images for the web, unless you don’t mind them being 2x – 4x larger. Example.

    If PNG could support lossy as well as lossless compression, it could be a contender, but as it stands, it’s only useful on the web for things in 256 colors, or line art.

  11. David, sounded to me like Linus was pronouncing Linux “linn-ux” (exactly as I pronounce it), but maybe that hasty transliteration doesn’t work the same in American (I’m British).

  12. It’s pronounced “jif.” I really don’t get why people would think it’s “gif,” especially because it’s much easier to pronounce than “gif” and the creators of the format call it “jif.”


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