pronounce ✦ GIF
Let’s end this debate once and for all…
Table of contents
Understanding the usage of soft ‘g’ words
Bad Argument #1
Bad Argument #2
“It’s the same as the word gift”
The Inventor Has the Final Word
Links to Related Articles and Sources
The ✦ 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 are Soft G words and Hard G words. Some examples:
Soft G Words
Hard G Words
Do you notice a pattern? It’s tough to spot, but it’s there.
Two types of ✦ Vowels
The type of vowel determines how the preceding consonant is pronounced.
i, e, y
When placed before a Front Vowel, the ‘g’ is pronounced as a ‘soft g’ as in gin, gem, and gym.
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?
There aren’t nearly as many hard g front vowel exceptions as you want there to be.
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.
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.
Hard G Arguments
Now let’s examine some of the most common arguments for a hard g pronunciation
“It stands for graphics interchange format. Graphics is a hard g, so that’s why gif is too.“
Yes, it’s true that GIF is an acronym and the words that make it up are Graphics Interchange Format. Good job for knowing that!
However, the words that make up an acronym don’t dictate the pronunciation of said acronym.
Don’t believe me? Try that same logic on these…
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’.
If you used the words that make up the acronym it would be pronounced ‘ih-max’ rather than the commonly accepted pronunciation, ‘eye-max’.
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’.
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’.
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’.
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).
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).
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).
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.
“It’s just the word ‘gift’ without the t. So obviously it’s pronounced with the same hard g.“
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.”—@HardG4Life
For those not trained in phonetics, you may not notice there is a change of consonant sound when going from thought to though.
Phonetics ✦ are fun
Observe the two different ‘th’ sounds according to the Standard Phonetic Alphabet.
Thought – θóːt
The ‘th’ sound, represented by the θ symbol, is a “soft th” sound. It is the same sound used in words such as therapy, thorough, and three.
Though – ðə́w
The ‘th’ sound, represented by the ð symbol, is a “hard th” sound. It is the same sound used in words such as then, there, and they.
It stands to say that it is normal for the first consonant in a word to change when creating a new word by removing a single letter.
Soft G Considerations
Although the obliteration of the previous bad arguments for hard g should be enough for any logical person, here are a few additional considerations.
There’s potential for confusion (remember the ‘gift’ argument)
Being considerate ✦ is cool
“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 (using 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 Lip-Readers & Hearing Impaired
For those who have 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.
The guy who invented it said so. The end.
Look, if you invented something you get to name it. And you get to have the last say in how it’s pronounced. Period.
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’ out of ignorance.
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—she’s my daughter, and I named her. And if they do argue that I’m wrong, I would just write them off as a self-absorbed, crazy, narcissistic weirdo.
Choosey developers choose GIF.
Creator of the GIF format (circa 1987),
pronounced with a soft g.