Thoughts on pronouncing GIF and JPEG

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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.

1 Response

  1. Ok, so I’ll start pronouncing you name as it would be in Spanish (Lay-ay) because you as the owner of your name are just being silly wanting people to pronounce it like “Li”.

    The creator of the name is well within his rights to specify how it is pronounced and for you to pronounce it any other way is just as ridiculous as you say he is.

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