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Question: How Do You Pronounce GIF?

Question: How Do You Pronounce GIF? A number of readers asked how to pronounce GIF, which stands for Graphic Interchange Format and is a graphics format originally developed by CompuServe. As much as we don’t want to turn this column into "Ask Mr. Online Language Guy," the pronunciation of GIF has troubled many Internet users.

Answer: Frankly, we’re not sure there is an answer to this one. People pronounce GIF in two ways, with a hard "g" like "goat," and with a soft "g" like "Germany." In fact, we find ourselves switching back and forth relatively randomly, perhaps indicating that the preference of the hard or soft "g" is related to the words that surround GIF in a sentence. Of the reference sources we have on hand, the Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary (from 1991) doesn’t include GIF. Robin Williams’s Jargon: An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms, weighs in on the "jiff" side of the pronunciation, but it seems dangerous to declare that the canonical pronunciation given that the "g" in "graphics" is a hard "g." In other words, we don’t know, and if anyone can provide a truly authoritative source (we couldn’t find one searching on the Web), let us know. As an aside, Partridge’s Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English includes an entry for "gifs," which is RAF (Royal Air Force) slang meaning "pilots," or "guys in the front seat." [ACE]

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