Ever since I found out that Nutella, the delicious chocolate hazelNUT spread is actually pronounced NEWtella, I’ve been waiting for the pronunciation rug to be pulled from under me again. And it seems that me patience has paid off, because now it has happened.
It came in a short interview with a man called Steve Wilhite in the New York Times. Steve’s claim to fame is that he devised a compressed image format back in 1987 that is still widely used today.
After a bit of history:
Mr. Wilhite, then working at CompuServe (the nation’s first major online service) knew the company wanted to display things like color weather maps. Because he had an interest in compression technologies, Mr. Wilhite thought he could help.
And some present day stuff:
Since retiring in 2001, Mr. Wilhite has led a quieter existence than his creation. He goes on RV trips. He built a house in the country with a lot of lawn to mow. He dabbles in color photography and Java programming. He uses e-mail and Facebook to keep up with family.
They casually drop this bombshell:
He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format.
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
I’m sorry? You what what?
26 years on from devising an image format, you decide to let that little gem slip? I’ve been using gifs… jifs… bah, whatever… since 1992 and now you want me to suddenly change the way I say it. How on earth am I supposed to do that?
And why “jif”?
I’m well aware that Giraffes have set a precedent for the use of a soft ‘G’, but the term ‘gif’ is – as any fule kno – an acronym for ‘Graphics Interchange Format’. That’s “Graphics”, not “Jraffics”. So while you’re confusing the geanpant off us (not literally, I hasten to add), why not change the way we say the other two-thirds as well?
May I respectfully suggest: “j-ee-ef”?
Actually, may I respectfully suggest that shove your idea where the sun don’t shine and stop trying to alter history just because you came up with a novel, much loved and much used way of sharing pictures?
To borrow your explanation from above:
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is “gif”, pronounced ‘gif’.”
End of story.