“Apparently we’re all fighting about how to pronounce ‘GIF’ again on Twitter,” writes technology columnist Mike Melanson:
I personally find the argument of web designer Aaron Bazinet, who managed to secure the domain howtoreallypronouncegif.com, rather convincing in its simplicity: “It’s the most natural, logical way to pronounce it. That’s why when everyone comes across the word for the first time, they use a hard G [as in “gift”].” Bazinet relates the origin of the debate as such:
“The creator of the GIF image format, Steve Wilhite of CompuServe, when deciding on the pronunciation, said he deliberately chose to echo the American peanut butter brand, Jif, and CompuServe employees would often say ‘Choosy developers choose GIF(jif)’, playing off of Jif’s television commercials. If you hear anyone pronounce GIF with a soft G, it’s because they know something of this history.”
Wilhite attempted to settled the controversy in 2013 when accepting a lifetime achievement award at the 17th annual Webby awards. Using an actual animated .gif for his five-word acceptance speech, he authoritatively announced his preferred pronounciation. However, the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary argues that “A coiner effectively loses control of a word once it’s out there,” adding that “the pronunciation with a hard g is now very widespread and readily understood.”
One linguist addressed the topic on Twitter this week, noting studies that found past usage of “gi” in words has been almost evenly split between hard and soft g sounds. Their thread also answers a related question: how will I weaponize a trivial and harmless consonant difference to make other people feel bad and self-conscious about themselves?
Her response? “Maybe just….don’t do this.”