It’s probably too late, but the inventor of the “gif” file format wants us to pronounce it “jif.”
Like “jpg,” the Graphics Interchange Format, or “gif,” is used to display images on digital devices. The news came at the 2013 Webby Awards, where Steve Wilhite was honored for the invention. He dropped his bomb by gif, of course.
And it has prompted disputes among such authorities as Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny .
The news also came as a surprise in the newsroom of KQED, where a quick survey of reporters found nine out of 10 pronouncing the word with a hard “g.”
“In a newscast it’s essential to be accurate but it’s just as essential to be relatable,” said morning anchor Joshua Johnson. “If saying gif will instantly prevent people from thinking about peanut butter, then that would be my choice. But my preference is to avoid jargon altogether. I would probably use ‘graphic image format.’ Jargon instantly limits the number of people who understand the story unless I explain it.”
Silicon Valley reporter Peter Jon Shuler agreed. “Common usage trumps somebody prescribing how something should be pronounced, even if it’s the inventor,” he said. “And the Oxford English Dictionary backs me up on that.” He said he used the hard g pronunciation when reporting on Compuserve, for whom Wilhite invented the format, in the 90s.
At least no one yet has announced that “jpg” must be pronounced as written.