‘Jeopardy’ wades into ‘GIF’ pronunciation battle

During Tuesday night's "Final Jeopardy" round, host Alex Trebek shared his pronunciation of the GIF image format.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

We’ve now heard it from Mr. Hooked on Phonics himself. “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek has stoked the flames of the undying Internet debate over how to correctly pronounce “GIF.”

According to Trebek, GIF, an acronym for a popular image format (some examples even feature Trebek), is pronounced with a soft G.

GIF crept its way into Tuesday night’s “Final Jeopardy” round when Trebek provided contestants with the following clue: “The inventor of this image format said the OED wrongly has two pronunciations of it -- the right one is with a soft ‘G.’”


When all three contestants correctly identified the clue as describing a GIF, Trebek read their responses with the soft G pronunciation. That is “jif,” like the peanut butter.

Others argue that GIF should be pronounced with a hard G, given the fact that the first letter in the acronym stands for “graphic.” Before Steve Wilhite’s announcement in April, the White House even tried to lay the GIF debate to rest with a post on Tumblr. It said definitively that GIF is pronounced with a hard G.

But Trebek isn’t without a solid case. After all, Wilhite, who is credited with inventing the GIF, declared the debate over at the Webby Awards back in May. For his acceptance speech, he screened a GIF that read: “IT’S PRONOUNCED ‘JIF’ NOT ‘GIF’”

Even then, the GIF debate only continued with the New York Times reporting 17,000 Twitter posts and 50 news articles following Wilhite’s speech.

There’s also the question of Trebek’s consistency. It was only back in August that Trebek went for the neutral option of not pronouncing the word at all. And, of course, it was turned into a video.

Here’s Trebek on Tuesday night:

And here’s Trebek in August:


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