GIF Inventor: It's Pronounced 'JIF' The Internet Says 'No'
In today's times, the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is the stuff of Internet legend. It's a simple file format allowing users to display a series of grainy, though often humorous, animations.
So popular did GIF become, that it was recently awarded the 2012 word of the year by The Oxford Dictionary. Its inventor, Steve Wilhite, who debuted the format in 1987, also won the lifetime achievement award at The Webby Awards on Tuesday.
Too bad, then, that a good deal of his biggest would-be fans hate him right now. That's because he committed a crime that only the Internet's hive mind could go to war over: how to pronounce the acronym "GIF."
In an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, Wilhite came forward to settle the battle of whether or not "GIF" is pronounced with a hard "g," like gall, or with a soft "g," like jif.
It's a battle so pitched that even the White House strayed into the fight in late April, when it revealed its new Tumblr page, in order to clarify the format's pronunciation. It appears President Barack Obama has firmly sided with those who use a hard "g," as in gift.
So what was Wilhite's answer?
"The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations," Wilhite said. "They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,' pronounced ‘jif.' End of story."
And, to some, Wilhite's pronunciation makes sense.
"The hard-G pronunciation of the letter G usually comes when a, o, or u follows it (think gas, good, or guy)," writes Gizmodo's Casey Chan. "We pronounce G's as the soft-G when i, e, or y follow it (think giraffe, German, or analogy). There are exceptions of course, but in general practice, Wilhite has his point. GIF is followed by an I."
But not everyone is buying Wilhite's pronunciation, even if he did create the format. Some say that because GIF is an acronym which features a hard "g," the shortened word should feature a hard "g" as well. Also, his critics point out, there are many words out there which feature a hard "g" and start with "gi." Gift, for example.
But maybe, like most Internet culture battles (Xbox vs. Playstation, Red vs. Blue), there just cannot be an agreement, and an end, to the story.
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