The Martin Brothers face off in the first installment of “Cincinnatus Debates.” This blog originally appeared on the Cincinnatus Blog

Cincinnatus Debates: How to Pronounce “.GIF”

On this installment of Cincinnatus Debates, we are tackling the real issue of our day: how do you pronounce .GIF? There are at least two common ways to pronounce the acronym. Here is a less-than-definitive pronunciation guide:

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the debate! In one corner, we have Nathan Martin with a hardline stance of “Hard G.” In the other, Jeremiah Martin with the soft, but firm pronunciation with a “Soft G.” Feel free to comment to let us know who is right!

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“Hard G” by Nathan Martin

Hard G or soft G?

Hard G of course. And it isn’t even close.

I could go into the details about how, in the english language, G before I before F is a hard G. How most single syllable G words are the hard G unless they have roots in words in which the J was used.

But I don’t have to.

Why? Because 999 people out of 1000 who are literate in English upon seeing GIF will pronounce it with the hard G. Period. Full stop.

That, and the sole argument for pronouncing it “Jif” is the result of the inventor’s imagination. Big whoop. The bottomline is that once an idea is in the general conscience, it belongs to the conscience.

The inventor isn’t the first one that had to get over themselves.

Take Theodore Geisel. Or how we know him, Dr. Seuss. You know how he pronounced Seuss? It rhymes with voice. Not juice. He eventually relented because he understood that it didn’t matter how he wanted it to be pronounced if the vast majority of people pronounced it a certain way.

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Steve Wilhite wants it pronounced like the peanut butter. And it doesn’t matter what he thinks. IF he wanted everyone to pronounce it correctly… how about not choosing a stupid pronunciation. Choosy moms choose JIF because it spelled with a J. Not a G.

Those who support the soft G are basically the elitist schmucks of the world who want to deny the masses what they really crave.


Insert ironic meme here. Source.

“Soft G” by Jeremiah Martin

Yes, it’s true. I defiantly proclaim that .GIF is pronounced with a “Soft G.” But I have good reasons. And no, I don’t claim it is solely based on Steve Wilhite’s wishes.

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As you can see in the graphic, a first grade teaching resource shows the basic rules for pronouncing G. The general rule is that if the letter after the G is I, E, or Y, it is pronounced with a “Soft G.”

Examples: Gin, Gist, GIF

But what about gift, girl, gear, etc?

Yes, like any rule in the English language there are a small number of exceptions.

According to Phrontistery, about 2.95% of dictionary words start with G. There are about 63 exceptions to the above pronunciation rule. This means about 14% of dictionary words that start with G are not pronounced according to the rule. Fair enough, but are you willing to ride your entire argument on an exception to a rule?

As for “G followed by I followed by F”, there is no such pronunciation rule that relates to this incredibly specific occurrence. In fact, almost every English word that contains “gif” is a form of “gift,” except fungiform and rangifer, which, interestingly, follow the above pronunciation rule.

Via Quickmeme

A final argument that is often used is that “Graphics” is pronounced with a Hard G. But since when does an acronym base it’s pronunciation on the words that make it up? If they did, SCUBA would be pronounced “scubba”, NASA would be “naysa”, and NATO would be “Natto”.

Now, if you’re on the fence, Steve Wilhite’s comments are worth noting. It is not a sufficient argument by itself, but added to the fact that normal pronunciation rules would dictate a Soft G, I think it adds up to a convincing argument.

But what if you disagree? Am I going to correct you? Am I going to insult you for a differing opinion? Of course not. I’m not an elitist schmuck after all!


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