GIF vs. JIF Pronunciation Debate

GIF vs. JIF Pronunciation Debate

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Updated Dec 03, 2017 at 07:54AM EST by Y F.

Added Jul 24, 2015 at 03:50PM EDT by Ari Spool.

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Bugs bunny GIF arguing if it is a soft G or hard G to say GIF


GIF vs. JIF is a long-standing debate of how to pronounce the acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. Both the debate and the reputation surrounding the debate are regarded as running jokes online.


The GIF was invented in 1987 at Compuserv, and developers there noted early that the pronunciation was "Jif." Indicating that the debate over its pronunciation has existed since the beginning of the format; In 1990, in the manual for a Compuserv graphics display program called Compushow, the developers wrote[2]:

The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), pronounced "JIF", was designed by CompuServe and the official specification released in June of 1987.

Compushow originally shipped with this GIF of Bob Berry, one of the original programmers. Using the software editor GIF89, which came with Compushow, one could open this image in a way where text was displayed on top of the graphics. This text included the line, "Oh, incidentally, it's pronounced "JIF"! This message can still be seen if a user opens this image with a text editor and views the original encoding.[1]

Compuserv developers have also often been attributed with the song parody "Choosy developers choose GIF," as both a way of promoting the format and informing users of the proper pronunciation. In 2013, when receiving his Webby Award Lifetime Achievement Award, the creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, fueled the flames of the debate by reinforcing his original claim that the word was pronounced JIF.

Opposition to the soft G pronunciation usually cites the acronym itself as the reason for using a hard G, i.e., one does not pronounce graphics with a "j" sound.


Since the debate has spread into many areas of popular online culture. In 2002, Strong Bad Email number 51 made fun of the debate; Strong Bad says that he "heard some nerds arguing about" the pronunciation (below left).[4] In addition, it was also parodied on The Big Bang Theory. Overall, there are about 7,000 video results on YouTube dealing with the pronunciation of the word GIF.[5]

There are several single topic blogs devoted to the debate, including the web site There are also at least 15 tumblrs titled with some variation on the theme "It's Pronounced GIF."[6] There are over 150 results for threads containing references to the debate on Reddit,[7] including 22 separate threads in /r/askreddit.

The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations, adding "Whichever pronunciation you use, it should of course be the same for both the noun and the verb."[8] The debate has been heavily covered in the mass media, including on sites like, the Atlantic, and CNN. [2][3][9] In 2014, President Barack Obama took a side, saying that he had been educated in the debate and favored the hard G pronunciation style.[10] On December 3rd, 2013, the debate was the basis for the Final Jeopardy question on long-running American game show Jeopardy, and all three contestants answered correctly.[11]

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