Huffpost Tech (the Huffington Post still sounds to me like it should be a parody site) reports on a recent comment from Steve Wilhite, the creator of the GIF file format.
When humans read, they tend to have a sort of ‘voice in their heads’ that sounds each word out to them as though someone’s talking. Did you notice, when you read the word ‘GIF’ just there, how the voice in your head sounded it out with a hard ‘G’? So did mine. And so, I gather, do those in most people’s heads. Well, Steve Wilhite says that’s wrong, and that you should be pronouncing it ‘jiff’. Some people do – mostly agonisingly fashion-conscious people – and they’ve been arguing, apparently for quite some while, that the computer-using public as a whole has been Doing It Wrong™ this whole time while he remained inexplicably silent on the matter.
Honestly I don’t rate his chances of changing anyone’s mind, even if he does assert that his belated comment represents ‘End Of Story’. Firstly, ‘giff’ (hard ‘g’) makes more sense (‘Jraphics Interchange Format’ just sounds weird), secondly ‘giff’ is pretty much embedded in the public consciousness and he probably should’ve started correcting people before now, and thirdly – some might say most importantly – who gives a toss? (Well clearly I do, this being my second post on the subject; but I shouldn’t, because it really is of less than no consequence at all.)
But really, it’s not the question itself that caught my attention today. It’s the comments under the said Huffpost article.
KevvyTermite, for example, is rather concerned about forriners tayking over are langwidge:
“Its Our language (English England) We pronounce it Gif. The Americans think they own our language now!”
Hmmm. Well, the first time I discovered that this argument existed, it was because I was listening to two people here in ‘English England’ debating it. So clearly we don’t all pronounce it ‘Gif’, Kevvy; though undoubtedly the hard G is vastly more common.
Also, the Americans do indeed ‘own our language’ in that English is also their national language. Yes, it’s American English – but I’m guessing you’re one of those many angry Little Englanders who’ve never bothered to research these ‘Americanisms’ enough to find out that in most cases they’re actually ‘Britainisms’: the Americans tend to use older forms that Britain has changed away from, rather than the other way around. But who cares? There are doubtless variants between all English-speaking nations – yet it’s only the Americans that cop flak* from people like Kevvy.
That said, I can’t say I was that impressed with AcaciaJules‘ rebuttal of Kevvy’s point:
“Um, he invented it. The person that invented the word decides.”
‘Um’, well that’s nice and simple, then. The problem is that it’s really not that simple at all. Once a creator releases their work they don’t have a great of control over it any more: hence the ongoing argument about whether George Lucas should be able, having re-worked the Star Wars movies, to eliminate the older editions. Are the films still ‘his’ movies, or do they now belong to The World? Some say one, others disagree – though it’s a fair bet which side of the divide AcaciaJules would come down on.
(Also, don’t start with ‘Um’ or ‘Er’ when you’re about to correct someone. It’s incredibly patronising and makes you look like an insufferable pompous arse. And it looks even worse still when, as in this case, your correction isn’t correct.)
treborc, who is at pains to inform us, apropos of bugger all, that although he used to vote Labour he now ‘none-votes’, steps in with a dose of intellectual:
“Wilhite…. Shitte same difference really”
There’s a whole separate argument to be had over the use of the phrase ‘same difference’, although since this, too, is well-established there’s little real point. But ‘shite’ definitely has only one ‘t’.
(Oh, treborc, by the way, is apparently a HUFFPOST SUPER USER. Which I guess gives us all hope, doesn’t it?)
But I think that Chillops probably has the best answer:
“Rubbish! Its always been pronounced ‘jif’… Or maybe ‘jiff’… Or sometimes ‘jjiff’. Occasionally I’ve heard it pronounced ‘Geoff’.”
Yep. I’ll go with that. If a soft ‘g’ there must be, then the .geoff file format it is, henceforth and forever more.
[* From 'fliegerabwehrkanone'. Not an Americanism. And for the love of Brenda don't spell it 'flack'. Do you see a 'c' amongst all that lot?]