GIF creator: It's pronounced "JIF"
Steve Wilhite created the Graphics Interchange Format in 1987 at Compuserve
He pronounced the issue closed at the Webby Awards in 2013
And yet, some partisans remain unswayed
Those short, animated loops that have captivated the Web for decades? They’re pronounced like a brand of peanut butter.
Steve Wilhite created the Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, while working for Compuserve in 1987. When he received a Webby Award in 2013 for it, and delivered his five-word acceptance speech (that’s all the Webbys allow), he flashed a GIF on the big screens at the Cipriani Wall Street in New York.
And, in a flash, it all became clear:
“It’s pronounced JIF, not GIF.”
Of course, in the grand tradition of heated debate, a flat statement of fact by the creator wasn’t enough to sway some partisans. On Twitter, “GIF” became a trending topic as some folks pushed back.
“Graphics Interchange Format. Graphics. Not Jraphics. #GIF #hardg,” wrote Web designer Dan Cederholm.
“So instead of GIF, we’ve got to say JIF? YEAH RIGHT,” chimed in October Jones, creator of the “Texts From Dog” Tumblr and book. “And I suppose those animals with long necks are called ‘JIRAFFES.’”
And, of course, the peanut butter brand was getting lots of free publicity along the way. The always amusing HAL 9000 account (yes, somebody tweets as the robot from “2001”) posted an “animated JIF” – which is to say, a swirling, animated jar of the tasty, high-protein spread.
Animated GIFs were a staple of the early Internet. Remember The Dancing Baby? That’s a GIF.
They fell out of favor as more advanced graphics technology emerged. But in the past couple of years, the Web has remembered how much fun it is to watch ridiculous things happen over and over again.
Wilhite has argued for the soft-G pronunciation for years. Yet no less an authority than the White House has posted an image on its Tumblr feed advocating for the hard-G. And the Oxford English Dictionary says both pronunciations are acceptable.
So, here’s wishing Mr. Wilhite “Jood Luck.”