Is it pronounced “gif” or “jif”? That is the question.
GIFs are a worldwide phenomenon that have taken social media platforms by storm. Some of the most popular GIFs contain characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Homer Simpson or celebrities like Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey. There are even GIFs of former President Obama. However, many people don’t realize that GIFs started long before this animated format was popular.
Steven Wilhite created the GIF in 1987 – four years before the World Wide Web was even invented. The GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) started as a better way to transfer images between computers. Before, when transferring files, the biggest issue was the amount of space the files took up. The GIF was created with a compression algorithm that put several images into a single file. This revolutionary format lowered the file size and changed the way files were transferred.
The GIF was soon phased out due to the creation of other file formats like the TIFF, PDF and JPEG. However, during this process, people noticed that GIFs could be used for something else. As GIFs hold multiple images in a file, a sort of flipbook can be created, making a short looping video. It was this use of the GIF that blew up on the internet.
One of the most controversial issues surrounding animated GIFs is pronunciation. When Wilhite announced his product, he wanted to put a spin on the popular peanut butter commercial slogan, “Choosy Moms choose Jif.” He announced the GIF using the slogan, “Choosy Developers choose GIF” – pronouncing GIF as “jif.”
Since the creator himself says it’s pronounced “jif,” that is technically the correct way to say it. However, more than 70 percent of English speakers pronounce it “gif.”
So, should it be pronounced “gif” or “jif”? I would say that both are correct in their own ways. If you pronounce it “jif,” you are 100 percent correct based on original company branding. If you pronounce it “gif,” you are a part of the majority and most likely the future branding of the company. No matter how you say it, America’s love of GIFs is all that really matters.