GIF creator: It's a soft 'g', Mr. President

Steve Wilhite, the man who created the GIF, is miffed that anyone -- be it the Oxford English Dictionary or the White House -- should imagine it's not pronounced like "jiffy."

What will the White House say now? White House Tumblr

You thought it had been settled, didn't you?

You've been practicing the new pronunciation (or the old one).

And now you're going to have to think again.

Recently, the White House very presciently decided to open its own non-purple Tumblr account. It took the occasion to declare with seeming finality that GIFs -- those very files that so many people find funny -- are hard, not soft.

Hard as in hard "g." Gif like "gift." Not like "jiffy."

Some giffers fell in line. Now they will have second thoughts. For the GIF's creator, Steve Wilhite, begs to jiffer.

As The New York Times reports, Wilhite will be accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Webby Awards Tuesday night. So he thought he'd offer something of his own.

The former CompuServe employee served up this definitive quote to the Times: "The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story."

If only all stories could end so definitely. If only this one would. Wilhite has previously insisted that this was the correct pronunciation.

GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, is now closely associated with people doing very silly things over and over again.

In Wilhite's view, it is the giffers who have been doing something very silly over and over again. One imagines that when the acronym was formed, it inspired mental images of words like "ginormous" and "giblet," rather than "gifted" or "gizmo."

One must therefore jird one's loins and listen to the man who stood behind the creation, even though -- for me, at least -- it won't be easy. I am a hard man.

I know that many Americans who decide to jiff, though, will still have concerns. They will be fearful of upsetting the White House and having their deductions questioned.

They will also fear that they will have to pronounce many other words correctly.

Yes, like "water" (it actually has a "t"), "Wimbledon" (why do so many Americans believe it has a "t" near the end?) and "herbs" (can you see the "h" at the beginning?).

 

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