The Most Absurd Religious War in Geek History is in the News Today

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, caused a firestorm today by weighing in on the correct pronunciation of his creation:

He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

This is not the first time Wilhite has handed down this decree. It’s never been the end of the story before, and needless to say, it was not the end of the story this time either. But I bring this up not to declare my own allegiance, but to ask a different question. I need some honest input from old timers here.

As near as I can remember, controversy over the pronunciation of GIF has existed practically from the day of its birth. Nevertheless, my recollection is that 20 years ago, most people pronounced it JIF. The hard-G contingent was a distinct minority. But that seems to have changed over time. Today, my sense is just the opposite: most people pronounce it with a hard G, and the Jiffies are now a small rump fighting a rearguard action.

Everyone has such strong opinions about what the pronunciation should be that it’s hard to solicit opinions on the purely empirical question of how it has been pronounced. But I’m going to ask anyway. Please don’t bother answering unless you were born before 1970. For those of you who were, and especially for those of you who worked in the tech industry in the 80s and 90s, what’s your recollection? Has the favored pronunciation changed, or has the hard G always been the more popular choice?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate