It is a well known argument that has plagued the web for many years and has left linguists puzzled and website designers frustrated. But now it is clear, the world can rejoice and from now on we can relax and just get on with using them. What is it? Well it has appeared that the inventor of the well known GIF graphic file format has proclaimed his invention is intended to be pronounced “J-IF” with a J sound instead of the commonly made mispronunciation of “G-IF” with a hard “g” sound.
Among the many widely used graphics formats available the GIF or Graphics Interchange Format has proven its worth online and is now one of the most popular file formats on the web; it has beaten down competition from the likes of the BMPs, RIPs, FIGs and MIFFs and was even honoured as ‘Word of the Year 2012’. The file format has become extremely popular on social networking sites and has developed its own following community whose uses extend to creating memes of funny cats and dancing troll faces. On Tuesday Steve Wilhite accepted The Webby Award for his work on the file format and made reference to the pronunciation and said he was “annoyed”. During his presentation a special graphic was posted on the screen and confirmed the lifelong question “how do you actually say that?”.
A retired software designer Wilhite developed the GIF in 1987 and has since become world famous for his contribution to the web. Today it can be found in social media and many other websites as forms of animation. The file has become a means of expressing feelings and generating laughter in some senses. David-Michel, Executive Director of the Webby Awards congratulated the receival and said:
“It’s been an incredibly enduring piece of technology,”
Little development was needed on the format and other designers immediately embraced the project, only after a month of trials did the GIF get launched online in 1987 and for over a decade reigned supreme on the web. Wilhite surprised critics when he said he’d never made an animated GIF himself but remarked the “dancing baby” remained a favourite of his. Steve Wilhite has been up in arms with the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the worlds most renowned and respected publishers, fighting for the establishment to change its definition of GIF which can currently be pronounced either way. Wilhite wasn’t happy at the entry of GIF in the dictionary and said:
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations… They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
The Oxford English Dictionary later told the BBC who had interviewed the company that it was not up to Mr Wilhite to decide the pronunciation of words and control language. Whatever side you take it is unarguable that the success of the GIF is unprecedented. The GIF has provided me with many a laugh and has made the web a much more animated place. Lets just hope people don’t go to war over its pronunciation…