How do you pronounce GIF?

If you’re with the majority of internet goers, you probably side with the ‘hard g’ camp. There are but a humble few who actually know the truth…

The word GIF is pronounced with a soft ‘g’ like the peanut butter. 😱

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Table of Contents


Preface

Understanding the usage of soft ‘g’ words


Argument #1

Pronouncing Acronyms


Argument #2

“It’s the same as the word gift”


Argument #3

Avoiding Verbal Confusion


Argument #4

The Creator Has the Final Word


Further Reading

Links to Related Articles and Sources


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Preface

Simply stated, the proper pronunciation of the acronym GIF is with a ‘soft g’ sound. As in, ”it is a gigantic waste of your time to try and debate me on this, because I’ve worked out all the angles.”

The most common arguments for the ‘hard g’ pronunciation are listed below. But first, some practice in remembering just how the English language works when it comes to the letter g.

Two types of ‘g words’

There’s the ‘hard g’ and the ‘soft g’

Soft G

  • gene
  • geology
  • generic
  • giant
  • giraffe
  • gym
  • gyroscope

Hard G

  • game
  • gas
  • gate
  • goal
  • gone
  • gut
  • gun

Notice a pattern? No? It’s hard, but it’s there…

Two types of vowels

The vowel determines which type of g sound is used.

Non-front Vowels (A, O, U)

When placed before a Non-front Vowel, the ‘g’ is pronounced as a ‘hard g’ as in game, goal, and gun.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course! But not many…

How many exceptions are there to the soft g rule?

Not nearly as many as you probably hope.

Chart showing number of total English words and total G-words

English Words vs. G Words

There are over 1,000,000 words in the English language. A little more than 24,000 of them start with the letter g.

Chart showing how many total soft g words vs exceptions to the soft g rule

Soft G Rule Exceptions

Of the 24,000 g words only about 61 of them are an exception to the ‘soft g’ rule.

So, yes… the rules of the English language seem to support a soft g GIF pronunciation. Moving on…

Argument #1

“It’s Graphics Interchange Format…” Is not a good argument.

Often the first objection people have to pronouncing GIF with a soft g is that the acronym stands for Graphic Interchange Format. And because Graphic is pronounced with a hard ‘g’ then so should the acronym using it.

NASA

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘neh-sa’ as opposed to the common pronunciation, ‘na-suh’.

IMAX

Image Maximum

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘ih-max’ rather than the commonly accepted pronunciation, ‘eye-max’.

JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘jeg’ or ‘jfeg’ (because the ‘p’ in Photographic is silent) as opposed to the common pronunciation, jay-peg’.

NATO

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘nat-o’ as opposed to the common pronunciation of nay-toh’.

SCUBA

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘skuh-ba’ as opposed to common pronunciation, skoo-buh’.

SWAT

Special Weapons And Tactics

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘swat’ (rhymes with cat) as opposed to common pronunciation swawt’ (rhymes with not).

DARE

Drug Abuse Resistance Education

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘duhre’ as opposed to common pronunciation ‘dair’ (rhymes with care).

SIM

Subscriber Identification Module

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘sime’ (rhymes with time) rather than common pronunciation ‘sym’ (rhymes with Tim).

MAGA

Make America Great Again

If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘muh-guh’ rather than common pronunciation ‘ma-guh’ (rhymes with ‘tag a’).

Surely nobody reading this would pronounce any of those acronyms according to how the words that make them up are pronounced. So let go of that argument. Time to move on.

Argument #2

“It’s just like the word gift,” is not a good argument.

Some people believe that because it looks like the word “gift” that it should be pronounced just like it. However, that rule doesn’t apply to other words where a letter is removed…

Think about Thought Though

The words thought and though are spelled exactly the same. Just remove the ‘t’ from thought and you have though.

Nobody will disagree that the pronunciation of the vowel part of the word changes from a ‘aw’ sound (‘thawt’) to an ‘o’ sound (‘tho’).

“But the g in GIF is a consonant, and consonants don’t change their sound.”

—@HardGforLife

For those not trained in phonetics, you may not notice there is a change of consonant sound when going from thought to though.

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“I sent you a gift, did you get it?”

Verbal communication can be hard when you’re using words that sound exactly alike.

Say this phrase out loud (with a hard ‘g’ sound):

“Did you get my gif?”

It’s easy for someone to think you said “gift” and misinterpret what you’re asking. But if you were to say it with a soft g there would be no question what you’re talking about.

For the Lip-Readers and Hearing Impaired

For those with hearing impairments and rely on reading lips for communication, pronouncing gif with a hard g will undoubtedly be misinterpreted.

Our mouths move the same way with the word “gift” since the final ‘t’ sound in the word is made with our tongue behind our teeth. So the former argument made is an inescapable reality when it comes to lip-reading.

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My hypothetical daughter

Let’s pretend I had a daughter and named her Selah. When people first see her name they may pronounce it ‘sell-ah’. That would be incorrect. I would kindly correct them saying that it’s pronounced ‘say-lah’ and that would be the end of it.

They don’t argue with me on the pronunciation. And if they do, I just write them off as a self-absorbed, crazy, narcissistic weirdo.

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