Be With You In a ".gif" - A Guide To Pronunciation Limbo


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For years I have been in an ongoing tussle with friends over the pronunciation of the format . gif. I thought naturally enough that it should be pronounced with a hard g since it stood for graphical interchange format.

By some serendipity now forgotten, I came across some information which shocked, shocked me and which I quote:

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

I cried, Nooooooo!, but I then read on.

It seems the term was invented by a team of software engineers (soft g), or geeks (hard g) who were inclined to program endlessly to the neglect of their nutrition. Their solution: peanut butter. The brand: Jif. I was mortified. Now I am stuck with both an odious pronunciation but a ridiculous explanation. Fortunately I am a flexible person.

To make it worse, someone pointed out that if I insisted on the hard g what would I suggest for . jpeg? Jfeg? (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

I seem to recall that somewhere in the bible there is the suggestion that mortification is good for you. Well fine.

Naturally, that brings me to lingerie.

As a kid, I always heard the word pronounced lon-jher-ay. I was amazed one day to hear Art Linkletter pronounce it lang-jayr-ee. How could he be so dumb? I later learned that that was correct for the French pronunciation. So, being flexible, I began to pronounce it that way, even to the nasal n and swallowed r.

Now I hear tell that it is gauche to pronounce adopted words as if in their original language, and I suppose, droit to pronounce them in the standard way the uneducated English speaker would do. Well, I guess I’d rather be droit than gauche but it hurts.

I wish I could come up with a good moral for this story. When in Rome talk with your hands, when in America, talk like an idiot?


Jack Wilson is a writer and artist in Tempe, AZ



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