How to Pronounce “Gif” Using Word Frequency

The battle over the correct way to pronounce “gif” has been long and heated. I pronounce it “jif” because I believe it should be pronounced the way the inventor says to pronounce it. But many say it’s illogical. After all, we pronounce gift with a hard ‘g’ and that is the closest word to “gif.”

I decided to attack the problem from a different angle. How many words that start with “gi” are pronounced with a soft ‘g’ and how many with a hard ‘g’?

Skip to the end if you just care about the numbers, otherwise here’s the quick steps to do that. You can find the code and resulting files here.

Step 1: Get all the words.

The fastest way to do this is to open up /usr/share/dict/words. I went down to “gi” and copied the 396 words into a file.

Step 2: Get all the pronunciations.

With 396 words, I needed a fast way to get all the pronunciations. I looked for some APIs and found wordsapi.com. It worked, but seemed to be missing a lot. I decided to do it the quick and dirty way. I directly made requests to dictionary.com and searched through their HTML to find the correct string.

Step 3: Analyze.

All of dictionary.com’s pronunciations use a ‘g’ or a ‘j’ to show a soft or hard ‘g.’ All I needed to do was count how many occurrences there were of each and I’d have my answer.

Conclusion:

There are 104 words that start with a hard ‘g’ and 72 words that start with a soft ‘g’.

It’s a surprisingly close race between the two, but the hard ‘g’ wins. For those soft ‘g’ diehards, you could always say the English language is fraught with exceptions, but the case for the soft ‘g’ keeps getting thinner.

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