How To
* Correctly *
Pronounce GIF
You're here because you don't pronounce GIF as intended, and want to disagree.
(Or, you already pronounce GIF as intended, and want to get some arguments to support your stance.)

In this section, I will address every argument advocating “ghif” and refute each one as simply but as detailed as possible. Click on your argument to jump to the response.

I apologize in advance if you come in peace; this page is mostly directed at rabidly gibbering defenders of “ghif”, so I had to put in some … enthusiasm and confidence, let's say, to counter their ego and fury.

Table of Contents

It's Graphics Interchange Format, not Jraphics Say "gift". Then remove the T. What do you get? It's illogical; If you say it with a J, spell it with a J Gin, gem, and gym don't count because they're shortened I've never heard ANYONE say "jif" Everybody says "ghif". Literally everybody! Steve Wilhite doesn't OWN the word My dictionary has my pronunciation in it, so it must be right "Jif" just sounds stupid "Jif" is already peanut butter. I listened to Chris Hardwick I read You're just wrong. Whatever. My argument is not listed here

It's Graphics Interchange Format, not Jraphics.

The long form of an acronym does nothing to its pronunciation. Take “GOES”, for example. Read that out loud, or in your head. Did you say “goes” as in “He goes to school”? Well, by your “Jraphics” logic, you'd be wrong, because GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, with a soft G. You'd have to read GOES as “Joe's”, which nobody ever does and is never correct to do.

Other examples include JPEG, SCUBA, NASA, UNICEF, ISIS, NATO, and an endless pile of acronyms.

Say 'gift'. Then remove the T. What do you get?

An invalid argument. Removing a T at the end can change the pronunciation by a mile. Try removing the T from “pint” or “thought”. If you want some more examples, you'd see van(e), quit(e), hear(d), hears(e), strip(e), dim(e), needles(s), cares(s), and stamped(e), as well as the honorable mention (s)laughter.

It's illogical; if you say it with a J, spell it with a J.

The fact that nobody spells “gym” as “Jim” should ring some warning bells.

The rule for G in the English language is that it's a soft G (a “J” sound, as you call it) when it's before a front vowel (E, I, Y), and a hard G before a back vowel (A, O, U), before a consonant, or at the end of a word. [Source 1] [Source 2]

Of course, there are exceptions, like gift (from a source language that doesn't have that distinction) or veg (short for vegetable or vegetarian), but statistics say that those 179 words make up less than a percent of G words: Litscape found 32720 words that contain the letter G, and Wikipedia's list of all words that do not follow the soft G rule contains only 63 base words (179 including forms). 179 ÷ 32720 = 0.00547, so it shows that the soft G rule is followed 99.5% of the time.

Fun fact: The only exceptions that have a soft G before a back vowel (A, O, U) are gaol (obsolete; now written“jail”), margarine, and algae (Imgur if you count recently-coined proper nouns).

Gin, gem, and gym don't count because they're shortened.

Let me guess, How to "Really" Pronounce sent you here, eh? “Gift”, “girl”, “gimp”, etc. are actually one of the 179 exceptions to the rule that I've already stated in the argument above.

I've never heard ANYONE say 'jif'.

If you were born any time before, say, 1995, you would never have heard anyone say “ghif”. Ever since 1987, anyone being exposed to the GIF was either done so from Steve Wilhite or another member of CompuServe, or from a CompuServe product with something like a manual that tells you not to say “ghif”. That pronunciation stuck, and rightly so, up until the recent years, when most people started being exposed to the word without being corrected for a very long time—either because they read the acronym online, guessed the pronunciation wrong, but nobody corrected them, or because they were surrounded by those people who guessed it wrong.

Guessing the pronunciation of a word wrong at first is fine per se, as long as you're willing to admit that you were mistaken all along, and to relearn that word as soon as you find out. I, personally, had only read “chagrin” in text, and misunderstood its meaning and misconstrued its pronunciation (I said “sha-grawn”—What an idiot!), and was shocked when I actually looked up the meaning and pronunciation of the word, and rightly so. However, I didn't go on arguments online defending my wrong pronunciation (like you apparently do, from the fact that you're reading this article); I admitted it, owned up to it, and re-learned the meaning and pronunciation.

Also, I'm willing to bet that everyone at Giphy read their own brand name as “jiffy”, like how fast it is to find or make a GIF “jif” on their site, and even if they don't, if they think critically enough, they'll switch to this pronunciation, which makes their brand name work better.

Everybody says 'ghif'. Literally everybody!

Just because everybody makes the same mistake, it doesn't mean that mistake is correct. Take “chaise longue”, for example. The correct pronunciation is “shays long”, but the masses often say it “chase lounge”. A chaise longue is a comfortable chair, and not a gymnasium for playing tag, and no matter how many people say “chase lounge”, a chaise longue will always be a chaise, or “chair”, and will always be “shays long”.

Also, look into “Argumentum Ad Populum”, a.k.a. the Bandwagon Fallacy, because that's what you're committing right now.

Steve Wilhite doesn't OWN the word.

He does, actually. Nobody can dictate how to read or pronounce a word if it's a naturally-developed word with centuries or millennia of history. However, words like GIF and basically every other brand name are moderated and regulated by the creator(s) or owner(s) of the word.

Take Nike, for example. You could argue that Nike should be read as “Mike” with an N instead. You could argue that “Nye-key” sounds stupid. You could argue that the company doesn't own the word. Oh, how wrong you would be!

And what about ASUS (“ay-Seuss”)? And Imgur (split it into “Img” and “ur” and read it “imager”, or so they say, but I personally don't support it. I accept it as the “canonical” pronunciation, though)? Maybe it's not that Steve Wilhite is grappling on to the word, unrightfully trying to change how it's pronounced; it's you.

Oxford/Merriam-Webster/some-other Dictionary has my pronunciation in it, so it must be right!

Not quite. Dictionaries sometimes intentionally add wrong words or pronunciations to reflect the current state of the English language as it's widely spoken. Take “supposably” or “irregardless”, for example. Or the second definition of “literally”, which is its misused sense meaning “figuratively”.

Just because it's in a dictionary, doesn't mean it's right.

'Jif' just sounds stupid.

That's purely a matter of opinion, and holds no validity at all. On the other hand, I find “ghif” too static and inert to signify a moving, morphing, changing image. The soft G reminds me of a kind of fizzling, a kind of movement, a kind of...magic. The hard G simply sounds too rigid, like throwing a rock at a brick wall. Immobile, unyielding, and stubborn. Well, that doesn't really matter, either, because like I stated, that's purely a matter of opinion, and neither of our “that sounds stupid”s will change the conclusion.

'Jif' is already peanut butter.

Welcome to the English language, where there are way too many homophones—two or more words that are spelled differently and mean different things but sound exactly the same. Here's a list for British English; the largest dialect-agnostic group of common words that are homophones is likely “right” (a cardinal direction or correct), “rite” (a ritual), “wright” (someone who writes for a living), and “write” (to jot down thoughts as words).

I listened to Chris Hardwick.

What a coincidence; I did too. However, he only uses the “Jraphics” rhetoric that I've refuted above, and this diss towards Steve Wilhite: “He's a programmer, not a linguist!” Well, I have news for you, Mr. Chris (read with a “ch” sound like “chair”) Hardwick, you're not a linguist either.

I read!

That explains the pretension! I also read How to "Really" Pronounce It's a pretentious, obtuse, and uninformed excuse of an educational site. Its arguments lack in edge, brevity, credibility, or knowledge. Its tone is condescending on anyone who disagrees. Their moderator's Twitter account is deaf to all counterarguments, or any logic at all. Anyone who thinks that immature king of the hill is a credible, reputable source would simply be misguided.

You're just wrong.

Feel free to come back again if you have a concrete argument to base your belief on.


Dismissal is an admission of defeat. (Translation: You're trying to act all done with this because you know you don't have evidence on your side but want to avoid being wrong at all costs, which means you've already lost.)

(some other argument that isn't listed on here)

Like every inquisitive and scientific mind, I'm always looking for countering evidence. I'll look into that if you tweet to me @HTCPGif, but I do expect some common courtesy and a listening ear to some reason.

Okay, maybe you're right. What now?

It's never too late to change your mind. You can start pronouncing GIF correctly today. It may take a little getting used to, but I promise you, it will be worth it. When you see someone who pronounces it with a hard G, don't be hostile towards them; just gently point towards this page, tell them that they were doing it wrong all along, but don't give up until they admit they were wrong.

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