How do you pronounce GIF? Well today, it feels like The Internet—yeah, all of it—is about to read the New York Times the riot act over that very question.
Thanks to a Times profile on the man behind Deadspin.com's GIF-making operation, Timothy Burke, the debate's reached new levels of madness today. The piece, about Burke's life making GIFs for Deadspin, has some great details in it: Burke spends 100 hours a week in front of ten monitors, split into eight (or more) miniscreens, where he can record some 28 games at the same damn time. And then, make GIFs out of them.
But it's this paragraph that's getting all the attention:
A GIF, pronounced jif, is a compressed image file format invented in 1987. In the last decade, the animated GIF has become popular.
The Times piece links back to an NYT Bits blog post on the creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, who weighed in on the pronunciation:
"The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations," Mr. Wilhite said. "They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story."
This has somehow not stopped The People of The Internet from going complete apeshit over today's article:
"A GIF, pronounced jif, is a" *CLOSES TAB* *SENDS ANGRY EMAIL TO JILL ABRAMSON*— Choire Sicha (@Choire) October 22, 2013
MORE LIES FROM THE NYTIMES "A GIF, pronounced jif, is a compressed image file format invented in 1987."— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) October 22, 2013
Just don't talk about GIFs out loud.— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) October 22, 2013
Wrong. Gif is obviously pronounced like gift without the t, and I don't care who says otherwise.— Nicholas Carlson (@nichcarlson) October 22, 2013
If You Pronounce GIF with a Hard G, You Must Really Not Care What the Trolls Are Telling You is the Correct Way— Dick Wisdom (@nostrich) October 22, 2013
And so on. Note that some of them are taking a tone of faux outrage—as if to say having a strong opinion on this is absurd—but that's just a cop out, because truth be told, these people totally have brain hemorrhages over this shit.
Atlantic Wire writer Phillip Bump (who has apparently been making GIFs since back when computers used to be the size of public pools) responded with a piece titled "If You Pronounce GIF with a Hard G, You Must Be New to the Internet," and explained that, well, the Times is right:
What's not OK is to defend that mispronunciation in the face of countervailing evidence, any more than it would be to argue with your English teacher about how you pronounce another word you might have read and then mispronounced.
The widely-referenced Times style guide can be a pacesetter for newsrooms around the country, but it deals less in spoken words and more in, you know, what's simply written on the page. So how can they regard themselves as an authority on the matter?
We hit the New York Times to ask: Was there a hard and fast decision made on this somewhere down the line? Did pronouncing "GIF" with a hard "J" ("jiff") become NYT style policy? Or was a renegade editor in control here?
When asked this over email, New York Times standards editor Philip Corbett weighed in, and...punted:
"I wasn't involved in the discussions about today's story and I think I want to steer well clear of the heated debate over the pronunciation of GIF. I know a no-win situation when I see one. I'm going to leave [NYT sports editor Jason Stallman] in the hot seat on this one."
When pressed, Stallman....also took a pass:
"Hate to do it, but gotta say no comment to this one. I'm out of the country and just not really in position to weigh in on this eternal question."
Somehow, Deadspin's Timothy Burke—who the piece is centered around—wasn't quoted on his perferred pronounciation of "GIF" in the piece.
We asked Burke where he fell on this topic, and he responded over email:
"I stay out of the fight on purpose because it's fun to watch people argue, but the reason the article insists it's pronounced that way is because that's how I pronounce it."
Basically, it breaks down like this:
- Most people say "gif," like "gift" without the "T."
- People who have been regularly involved in the GIF trade seem to go with the "jif" pronounciation.
- There are two wrong ways to say it, but no right way to say it.
- And while we may scream about it on The Internet, it's okay, because it just boils down to this totally inane thing to argue about, and a dictionary accepts both pronounciations, so either way, you're good (in the sense that you are either the kind of person who pronounces it "jif" or "g-ihf" and people will silently make ostenisbly small but probably very crucial judgments about you based on your preference of this).
That said, Complex can definitively report: You are more likely than not being an asshole if you correct someone on their pronounciation of GIF in the middle of a conversation. Please do everyone a favor and never do this.
Also, it's pronounced GIF. Morons.
Yes, we know. You're welcome.