A Compelling Argument On The Correct Way To Pronounce ‘GIF’

A Compelling Argument On The Correct Way To Pronounce ‘GIF’

GIF. The acronym that spawned a thousand passionate debates regarding its pronunciation. Be you in the creator’s soft-G camp or some other faction, there is no universal understanding on how it should be said. Quick question: Has anyone stopped to ask why?

Mike Rugnetta from PBS’ Idea Channel has an excellent video covering the arguments behind GIF’s various pronunciations, including Rugnetta’s own — and less-than-serious — “zhaif”.

Rather than crown any single utterance as correct, Rugnetta instead suggests that no one really has a solid footing by pointing out the flaws of the major sides.

For example, if you want to be consistent on the soft-G, or “JIF”, then you need to follow through with many, many other words:

In the case of GIF, if you’re going to pronounce it how the creator does because you feel that’s how words should be pronounced, then there are a whole bunch of other words coined by John Milton and William Shakespeare, for example, who coined some 859 English words between them you’ll probably have to say rather differently so that your position “JIF” isn’t arbitrary.

The hard-G people don’t get away scot-free either:

If what we’re saying is that “GIF” is correct, because graphics is pronounced with a “ga”, that’s fine as long as you’re also going to follow suit with other acronyms and pronounce scuba (scoo-ba) as “scub-a” and laser as “la-sear”. Probably, you’re not.

In the case of GIF, the take away is that, as long as other people understand what you’re referring to, try not to get worked up about it because, chances are, you’re going to be wrong in some way.