Internet

Executive decision: White House Tumblr endorses hard 'G' for GIFs

April 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM ET

Hard G
White House Tumblr

The White House is headed to microblogging service Tumblr, and it promised in its announcement on Twitter that "there will be GIFs." Not only that, but an administration-posted image offers an executive decision on one of the most bitterly debated issues in the history of the Internet: the pronunciation of GIF.

For a quarter of a century the GIF format has been used as a convenient way to show graphs, drawings, and simple animations. Just recently, it was pronounced 2012's word of the year by the Oxford American Dictionary, owing to a resurgence in popularity among bloggers, especially on Tumblr.

But under the surface, a controversy has smoldered for decades: is it pronounced gif as in gift or jif as in jiffy? Both sides claim legitimacy.

Advocates of the hard G point out that GIF stands for "graphics interchange format," and no soft G sound is involved. They also say words like gift and give hint at a hard G as the appropriate sound.

On the other hand, the creators of the GIF format at Compuserve have said that it should be pronounced jif. Fans of the soft G consider this authority unquestionable. And there is also no shortage of words that follow their rule, from gibe and gin to giraffe.

Excerpt
White House Tumblr
The White House throws down the GIF gauntlet.

Into this low-intensity but never-ending melee waded the White House this morning. And much to the consternation of Team Jif, in the inaugural (so to speak) image on their new blog, they very pointedly express their preference for the hard-G gif.

They know what they're getting into: The social-media-savvy Obama team has embraced blogging, YouTube, and online communities like Reddit in the past, and this depth charge into the placid waters of the GIF controversy is just the thing to draw attention to their new endeavor.

But will it settle the debate? Not likely. Like pop versus soda, this one may go on forever.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.

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