Tech etymology on “GIF”

GIF is a graphics file format that all of us encounter each day while browsing the internet. One problem? The Atlantic takes a look at the word and wonders why no one seems to know how to pronounce it. Is it “gif” or “jif”? I’ve always said “jif.”

So, which is it: GIF like a present or GIF like the lube?

“It’s embarrassing because you don’t know if it’s Mr. Gick or Mr. Jick,” lamented William Labov, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. As Dr. Labov explained, in modern English, no hard and fast rule exists for the ‘gi’ combination. Some words take the hard sound, others take the soft sound — it depends on the word’s specific history. Compare gift and gin, for example — same ‘gi’ combination, different ‘gi’ sound.

The Atlantic has really been nailing it lately and is quickly becoming one of my favorite publications.

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