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

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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?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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