Thoughts on pronouncing GIF and JPEG

Before I get into the meat of this blog post, I wish to firmly establish something. I do not believe it makes any difference whether someone pronounces “GIF” with a hard or soft G. Everyone knows what you’re talking about, regardless which pronunciation you use. Thus, henceforth, I shall always endeavor to not give anyone flak over their choice of pronunciation.

That said, I’ve personally locked myself into believing it makes better sense for it to have a hard G sound. I believe the GIF inventor—who apparently established that it’s supposed to be pronounced with a soft G—is being silly. The acronym stands for Graphics Interchange Format, so my brain forces me to pronounce “GIF” with a hard G, just like the word “graphics.” This makes even more sense when you understand that the computing world already has a word with the soft G (or J) sound, “jif,” short for “jiffy,” which is a measurement of time. The Wikipedia listing defines the amount of time it represents:

The earliest technical usage for jiffy was defined by Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875–1946). He proposed a unit of time called the “jiffy” which was equal to the time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum (approximately 33.3564 picoseconds). It has since been redefined for different measurements depending on the field of study.

In the computing world, technicians sometimes refer to how many instructions a computer can perform in a jiffy (or perhaps in older days, how many jiffies were required to perform one particular instruction).

So, for me, it’s “GIF” with a hard G. BUT…

I’m in a quandary. If I am going to decide to pronounce “GIF” with a hard G because the G stands for “graphics,” then logically I shouldn’t be pronouncing “JPEG” with a hard P. JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. But I can’t bring myself, just on principle, to start pronouncing it “jay-feg.”

This musing, of course, brings me full circle to what I established at the start of this post. It’s time to cease giving people grief over how they pronounce “GIF.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

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