Twenty-five years ago Friday, Steve Wilhite invented the GIF file format and bestowed upon the world the perfect vehicle for some of the best memes ever created.
It’s more than a picture but not quite a video, but so often, it’s just perfect -- especially with the rise of Tumblr.
But what Wilhite also did when he invented the format for CompuServe back in June 15, 1987, was begin one of the most hotly debated arguments of all (Internet) history: Is GIF pronounced like "gif” as in the first three letters of “gift” or “jif” as in the peanut butter.
So which is it?
The more prominent pronounciation of the word often seems to be “gif,” or at least in some parts of the Web. The reason for this pronunciation is based on the file format’s actual name, which is graphics interchange format. With “G” standing for “Graphic,” some users argue you have to use the same kind of sound when using the format’s acronym.
It’s a well thought-out argument, but it’s also officially wrong.
The correct pronunciation, according to Wilhite, is “jif.” If you search for Wilhite and GIF pronunciation you’ll find various sources that say he not only pronounced it “jif” but he corrected those who did otherwise.
What’s more, a FAQ for the format even addresses the issue saying, “‘GIF’ is specified in the GIF specification to be ‘jif’, as in ‘jiffy’, rather then ‘gif’.” But it does also add, “This does seem strange because the ‘G’ is from the word ‘Graphics’ and not ‘Jraphics’.”
And while logic may have nothing to do with it, Wilhite is also often quoted as saying that it was “jif” and that’s because “‘Choosy programmers choose ‘jif,’” referencing a Jif peanut butter commercial that says “Choosy mothers choose Jif.”
I personally am a “jif” man myself, but how do you say it? Weigh in, and regardless of the results, happy birthday, GIF!