I call BS on the G-I-F

I’m taking a very very brief moment out of today’s work-family-oh-did-I-mention-it’s-the-last-day-of-school-writing-like-a-panicking-fiend schedule today to address something very very near and dear to my heart.

Just in case you weren’t aware, the internet is as full of animated images as your aunt Glenda’s house is full of cats, mothballs, and canned produce that looks like snot.  Some of you might even know the name of the format for those animations.  For those that don’t, they’re called “gif” files, which is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. And if that’s not the kind of sterile, technical thing a geek would name something, I don’t know what is.

Now, over the many years since the Interwebs climbed out of its own primordial ooze on legs built of cat pictures, porn, and People of Wal-Mart collections, debate has raged over the pronunciation of that acronym.  Some have said the word starts with a hard ‘G’, like “gift” but without the ‘t’.  Others, though, have adamantly defended the word’s soft ‘g’ beginning, swearing it’s pronounced “jif”, the same way you might shorten the popular peanut butter brand.

Well, apparently, Steve Wilhite, the creator of the popular image format upon which many Tumblr sites depend for survival, recently received a lifetime achievement award at The Webby Awards. In the course of receiving it, he attempted to put to rest the pronunciation debate once and for all by saying,

The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.

Well, I call BS on that.

Wait, that was kind weak.  Let me try that again.


Look, dude, I get it, you’re proud of your creation. And, dammit, you should be.  I would be too. I’d probably have spent the last 20 years making animated gifs of my own stupid face giving the internet a “thumbs up” and posting it everywhere imaginable.

But, look, man, here’s the thing: you don’t get to decide how it’s pronounced.

Seriously, you don’t.  Sure, sure, you got to pick the words to name it, “Graphics Interchange Format”, and we appreciate that you even knocked that down to an acronym for us.  Because, for real, who doesn’t love acronyms?  Also, who wants to say, “did you see that dancing baby Graphics Interchange Format clip?” The water cooler would become unliveable.

But, fella, this language we speak?  The words we write?  Yeah, they’re governed by something called “phonics”, which is, very very sadly, not something anyone apparently learns anymore.  Phonics is the rules that dictate how the letters of English go together to make sounds.  And, here’s the thing, a ‘g’ followed immediately by a short ‘I’ makes a hard sound, dude.  Every. Frakkin. Time.*

For instance, I give you the words “gift”, “gill”, and “gigawatt”. See? Short ‘I’ sounds following hard ‘g’ sounds.  Not soft. If you want that ‘g’ to be soft, then you’ve got to make your ‘I’ long so the word would rhyme with “knife”.  But, honestly, trying to make your ‘I’ long seems like maybe a personal thing we shouldn’t be discussing openly.

Now, I know everyone is all like, “Oh, yay! He said it was like the peanut butter, so I’ve been right all along!” But, again, and I’m sorry to have to say this, the fact is that you just don’t get to decide. You don’t get say your ‘g’ is soft any more than I get to say the first letter in my name is pronounced like an ‘h’ (that’d be in Jason, btw, not Puddin).

Because, like I said, this is English, and our ‘j’ letters don’t make a ‘h’ sound in English. Because of reasons.  Reasons, of course, being phonics.  Likewise, just because I created my kids, I didn’t get to decide to pronounce their names any way my heart desired.  Which is probably better, because if that was case at least two of my kids would be named ‘Kevin’, spelled ‘Xthanypses’**.  And the youngest would be named, “Steve-World-Ender”, which we’d spell with the symbol for Pi, because, duh.

So, in conclusion, I’m sorry Mr. Wilhite, but your soft ‘g’ is wrong, and it’s not the end of the story.

Also, phonics rules. Kids really should learn it. Then they could go back to sounding out words properly instead of growing to adulthood and misspelling them in hateful comments on newspaper websites.

This PSA (public service announcement) has been brought to you by crotchetiness and OGS (Old Guy Syndrome).

The more you know…

*rainbow star graphic*

(you’ll just have to pretend I added a graphic of the “More You Know” rainbow star thing there. I so wanted to, but, you know, copyrights)

Tune in tomorrow for a very special Afterschool Online Rant, where old guys will shake their fists at whippersnappers while ordering them off their lawns.


*Okay, so, for the record, I pretty much made up the short ‘I’, long ‘I’ rule, because, um, I want it to be true.  And, yes, there are plenty of examples of short ‘I’ following a soft ‘g’, such as in ‘gist’, ‘gibe’, and ‘gin’.  As far as I’m concerned, those and all their soft ‘gi’ brethren are freakish anomalies! The exceptions that make the rule.  I mean, everybody knows English is messed up anyway. These exist only as further proof of that. Or they’re French in origin. That could be it, too.  Either way, I’m sticking to my guns here: Mr. Wilhite doesn’t get to decide.

**Henceforth, all my minions shall call me ‘Xthanypses’ (pronounced ‘Kevin’)

2 thoughts on “I call BS on the G-I-F

  1. Since, it is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. The “G” in graphics is a hard g so I postulate it should be carried forward to the acronym as well.


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