The man who created the popular animated images file format, Steve Wilhite, settled the long-running debate this week, saying he's frustrated by those who pronounce the file name like the word GIFT: "The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a 'soft G', pronounced JIF. End of story."
World-shakin' stuff, criticising the Oxford but then, Wilhite was honoured this week with a lifetime achievement award for his creation...so I guess he CAN! He invented the Graphics Interface Format back in 1987 and, in the last few years, the format - known for its ability to support animated images - has enjoyed a comeback.
Last year, when the file format celebrated its 25th anniversary, it was noted that Wilhite was known for pronouncing the name as JIF and correcting those who did otherwise. And so the debate reignited...
The Oxford English Dictionary's chief editor John Simpson made it clear that whatever the word's roots, the fact many people used the 'hard G' meant that option WAS acceptable: "The pronunciation with a 'hard G' is now very widespread and readily understood. A coiner effectively loses control of a word once it's out there."
Even The White House got involved, announcing President Obama used the "hard G". So there!
But why JIF and not GIF? I mean, it's a "graphical" interface format, not a "jraphical" one, right? Well, Wilhite is often quoted as saying "Choosy programmers choose GIF" (a reference to an old US tv ad for JIF peanut butter that said "Choosy mothers choose JIF."). So less to do with logic, and more with Wilhite's peanut butter preference?
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, JIF conjures up images of a household cleaning product...