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O RLY? The GIF is 25 Years Old?
June 16, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

The Graphics Interchange Format is 25 years old. Originally released by CompuServe to replace RLE - a file format which was limited to black and white only, the GIF (which you're probably pronouncing incorrectly) evolved over the next 25 years - first gaining color, then better color, then the ability to repeat itself, and finally an adoring audience willing to take GIFs to the next level.
posted by Effigy2000 (86 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will never pronounce it "jif". Ever. Seriously. Never.
posted by MikeMc at 4:43 PM on June 16, 2012 [66 favorites]


I will never pronounce it "jif". Ever. Seriously. Never.

You'd better not, or the peanut butter people will have your head.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:48 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't care if Yahweh himself calls it with a soft g like it's peanut butter or popcorn. Soft g's are for pronouncing my alias. It's gif like in githyaniki.
posted by djeo at 4:49 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dammit. githyanki
posted by djeo at 4:49 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will never pronounce it "jif". Ever. Seriously. Never.
You probably spell out SCSI too.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:50 PM on June 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let me know when they introduce gifs with sound.
posted by Petrot at 4:50 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Choosy Geeks Choose "Jif."

Deal with it.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on June 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Now that the file format's only use is annoying animations and compatibility with ancient browsers which I don't need to support, I'm perfectly happy to change the way I have always pronounced it. There are some English word usages which are worth fighting over, but in this case count me as a convert. The word of the format creator is good enough for me.
posted by HappyEngineer at 4:59 PM on June 16, 2012


The 'adoring audience' link was a little underwhelming for me. Felt a little 2.0, and really, the largest collection on the internet?.

But I am an insane tumblrer, and a devout gifmaker. All love to the gif. (could be nsfw things in that link, it's the whims of the tumblr gods)
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:02 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Now that the file format's only use is annoying animations"

The format would be dead if it weren't for Tumblr and 4Chan.
posted by MikeMc at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Animated GIFs are the sauce that makes tumblr taste GOOD.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:05 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You probably spell out SCSI too.

Almost a full day was devoted to agreeing to name the standard "Small Computer System Interface," which Boucher intended to be pronounced "sexy".
posted by mendel at 5:05 PM on June 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The inventors may think it's pronounced JIF' but they also refer to it as the "Giraffic Exchange Format."
posted by anigbrowl at 5:06 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I had a college roommate at one point who not only constantly insisted I was wrong for saying "jif," but also insisted on saying "jiggabyte" himself. I never changed my mind on either topic.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:08 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


yuppieeee .gif!


posted by - at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2012


"But I am an insane tumblrer, and a devout gifmaker."

There are non-pornographic GIFs on Tumblr? Woah! /Keanu
posted by MikeMc at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2012


You really can't talk about GIF without talking about the long-fought Unisys patent issue. This patent encumbrance led directly to the creation of the competing, unencumbered, PNG format, which lives on (and has been further developed) even though the last GIF patent expired in 2006.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:12 PM on June 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


"insisted on saying "jiggabyte"

Big Hova fan maybe?
posted by MikeMc at 5:13 PM on June 16, 2012


I have always pronounced it "jif". Always. Seriously. Always. and who gives a shit, basically.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


"insisted on saying "jiggabyte"

I worked in computer stores for 8 years and had several latino coworkers who always pronounced it "jiggabyte." FWIW.
posted by jonmc at 5:16 PM on June 16, 2012


I have never understood the prescriptivist tizzy over pronouncing gif. Since it's an acronym including the letter "g" for the word "graphic" which has a hard "g", using a soft "g" is dumb. And the weird thing is the 1000 people I have heard pronounce this acronym in conversation are real close to 50-50 on whether they are hard or soft on the "g".

(I always go hard on the "g" unless the person I am speaking with goes soft first, in which case I will usually follow. But not always. I have been known to go REAL hard when the discussion is not going well and my partner goes soft.)
posted by bukvich at 5:24 PM on June 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Well I respect the greek, yo! My favorite team is the New York Guiants!
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:26 PM on June 16, 2012


gerkoffs.
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have been known to go REAL hard when the discussion is not going well and my partner goes soft.)

Heh.
posted by emjaybee at 5:29 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pronunciation is a weird thing. It is often used as a cultural differentiator. I work in food/wine and people nit-pic and correct each other constantly. It's an odd form of one-upmanship. My favorite recent example was when a colleague of mine corrected a winemaker's pronunciation of his own village.

I've long said "jif" though I never thought this to be controversial. None of my computery friends every seemed to mind. Though I did catch some guff years ago from pronouncing SQL like "school."
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2012


insisted on saying "jiggabyte"

Jiggawhat?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do I store jifs using puhup / my squeal?
posted by benzenedream at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heh, this reminds me of the lego/legos "discussion", except that, unusually, the common wisdom is to support the big corporation in its quest to avoid having its word xeroxed into common usage.
posted by Malor at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't socialize with people who use GIF in conversation, so I had to learn how to pronounce it from the MeFi Music classic, Matthowie's Community Blog.
posted by Lorin at 5:36 PM on June 16, 2012


How do I store jifs using puhup / my squeal?

*twitch* *twitch*
posted by Talez at 5:38 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can't bring myself to pronounce it "jif", but it's not near the visceral reaction I have to pronouncing "URL" as "Earl".
posted by jason_steakums at 5:38 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Though I did catch some guff years ago from pronouncing SQL like "school."

Yeah, I totally didn't know what my programmer friends were talking about for a while when they kept saying "sequel" this and "sequel" that.
posted by limeonaire at 5:42 PM on June 16, 2012


Here's to GIF's!!!
posted by JJ86 at 5:42 PM on June 16, 2012


I ought to contribute my favorite gif ever. I feel like it's appropriately celebratory.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:48 PM on June 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


My feelings on this subject are extensively documented . (those are self links and you should not click on any of them, unless you like being tremendously annoyed.)

I guess I don't socialize with people who use GIF in conversation

I, on the other hand, can barely have a conversation without GIFs.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:50 PM on June 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Gifilte image pointer sits not on the Earl but actually at the end of the Yuri!

(I've always said "jif" and you have ALWAYS said it wrong. There.)
posted by roboton666 at 5:54 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved animated gifs when I first found out about them. The (horrendous) website I created for Introduction to Management Information Systems in 1997 had at LEAST 15 animated gifs and loaded slow as hell, so I had to remove them... My favorite was the animated moose, and I still love it!

Hard g, for the record. I don't think I've ever heard someone else say the word or even talk about it, though.
posted by gemmy at 5:57 PM on June 16, 2012


Did nobody post "IF WE DON'T, REMEMBER ME." yet? Because those half-a-second slices of movies redeemed animated gifs in my books.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:05 PM on June 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


The OED says both pronunciations are acceptable.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:17 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fun fact: Yahoo is pronounced "Yay-who".
posted by Brocktoon at 6:31 PM on June 16, 2012


According to that pronunciation site, png is supposed to be pronounced "ping", which I've never heard people use (always "pee en gee)
posted by Adamsmasher at 6:42 PM on June 16, 2012


25 years ago when I first encountered .gif files I called them jif files. It interesting to learn that that's what the developers called them.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:46 PM on June 16, 2012


I've never heard a lexicalized version of "PDF." But audio geeks call S/PDIF as it reads ("SPID-if"). It's a suitably vehement sound that it's quite pleasant to say with appropriate vernacular intensifiers when doing a complex audio installation, such as "FUCKING SPIDIF BULLSHIT!"
posted by spitbull at 6:55 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


HappyEngineer writes "The word of the format creator is good enough for me."

As mentioned up thread the SCSI specifiers thought we should pronounce SCSI "Sexy" thereby showing how much the originators know. On the other hand imagine all the sexual harassment suits if they'd got their way.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 PM on June 16, 2012


Did nobody post "IF WE DON'T, REMEMBER ME." yet? Because those half-a-second slices of movies redeemed animated gifs in my books.


Those are cinemagraphs.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:12 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


OMG I actually remember downloading images in RLE format. It worked great in 1-bit Hercules Graphics Card emulation mode on an Epson 286 I owned.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, no link to anything about Unisys and their GIF patent trolling?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for the pronunciation, it's GIF, and I don't want to hear another word about it.

Oh, I'm SORRY. Did I have to SPELL it a DIFFERENT way to get those phonemes across? No, of course I didn't, because GRAPHICS starts with a hard G, and the acronym they came up with uses that word. So, clearly, it's pronounced hard-G IF.

Yes, people were idiots on Compuserv and The WELL back then, too.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:27 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The OED says both pronunciations are acceptable.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:17 PM on June 17

Oh please. What would The Ood know about GIFs?
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The peanut butter is spelled 'Jif' but pronounced 'Gif'.

For serious.
posted by mazola at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Almost a full day was devoted to agreeing to name the standard "Small Computer System Interface," which Boucher intended to be pronounced "sexy".

It's such a fine line between 'sexy' and 'scuzzy'.
posted by mazola at 8:17 PM on June 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well it's not like the word actually comes up in regular, non-written conversation all that often. 90% of the time you're either reading or writing it so subvocalize the damned thing any way you please.

Seriously, the last time I said GIF out loud (with the hard 'g', incidentally) the person to whom I was speaking didn't know what it was anyway. She didn't even know that there was such a thing as different image formats. Just wasn't something she cared about knowing.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:59 PM on June 16, 2012


Jif, never even realized anyone thought otherwise.

These are my favorites.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:04 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops, these.

If only Metafilter could get Compuserve to develop edit window technology for us, they aren't busy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:07 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So how come browsers don't support a modern replacement for animated gifs? There's clearly a market.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:36 PM on June 16, 2012


My face when I saw the title of this post
posted by sswiller at 10:35 PM on June 16, 2012


Gif is a jift from the computer jods.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:50 PM on June 16, 2012


It's obviously a hard G, because "Graphics" has a hard G, and so does the word "gift," which is the most orthographically similar to "GIF."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:51 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember downloading CompuShow at 2400 baud. It was 1990 and my family had gotten a new PC with an ATI VGA Wonder. Wikipedia says that it came with either 256KB or 512KB of framebuffer, but I can't remember which ours was. Most of the programs that I had tried up to that point were graphically underwhelming, considering that I was coming from a C-64 / C-128 background. They were the standard 16 color VGA/EGA affairs. But finally after going to a BBS and finding a 256 color GIF of a Coke can with sweat beads rolling down the side, and then downloading CompuShow to display it, I was finally able to get a taste of the fabled mode 13h: 320x200 resolution with a palette of 256 colors selected from 18-bit resolution color. And this image was photo-realistic in a way that I'd never seen on a computer before, having skipped the Amiga wave. That was one of the moments that really hooked me on the idea of the BBS, which would wind up being a huge part of my life.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:01 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ha! I even managed to find the image thanks to the archives of MetaFilter's own Jason Scott.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:08 PM on June 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now I want a coke.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:09 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have always said "jif" and I am delighted to know I was right.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:05 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Only computer engineers would think that something that's an acronym for Graphics Interface Format should be pronounced so counterintuitively as jif.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:18 AM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


You guys are choosy mothers.
posted by telstar at 2:28 AM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Only computer engineers would know what GIF stood for in the first place!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:38 AM on June 17, 2012


Surprised to see the statement that a majority of Mac users say it with the hard G. I'm a Mac user and I've always said "jif" (and grew up eating Jif), and first heard it pronounced in the early 90s by a programmer friend, also a Mac user, who had worked on the team that produced the core of Photoshop 1.0. I've almost never heard anyone say "gif". (Which is why the joke, "beware of geeks bearing gifs" didn't parse for me when I first saw it.)

But, re gigabyte: I would never get jiggy wit' it...
posted by Philofacts at 3:50 AM on June 17, 2012


"Let me know when they introduce gifs with sound."

They won't need to if the WebM standard ever catches on.
posted by toekneebullard at 5:26 AM on June 17, 2012


You can pry my pronunciation from my cold dead larynx.
posted by fairmettle at 5:26 AM on June 17, 2012


I've always said 'Jif', but I hardly think the fact that the inventors called it that is proof that that's how it's pronounced. Shakespeare is said to have invented a lot of words, and we pronounce a lot of them differently now. Usage rules.
But then again, I pronounce Dr. Spaceman as space-man.
posted by MtDewd at 5:51 AM on June 17, 2012


giff (hard "g"), ping, targa, tiff, pee-dee-eff, zip, rahr, tarball?, scuzzy, you.ess.bee., see-ree-uhl, mih-dee.
posted by nobody at 6:32 AM on June 17, 2012


There's no need to argue about this. The eminently logical rules of English orthography clearly demonstrate by example how "GIF" is meant to be pronounced. All we have to do is look at other words that begin with the letters "gi" and follow their example:

Gifted
Giraffe
Girder
Giblets

All of these words are pronounced the same way, so "GIF" obviously has the same pronunciation as the rest of them.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:54 AM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Correction: I might pronounce .rar as "dot rare." I'm really not sure.
posted by nobody at 7:10 AM on June 17, 2012


RAR... RAWR.... RAHRRR.... Y'know, like a dino-attack...
posted by jkaczor at 8:25 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


You really can't talk about GIF without talking about the long-fought Unisys patent issue. This patent encumbrance led directly to the creation of the competing, unencumbered, PNG format, which lives on (and has been further developed) even though the last GIF patent expired in 2006.

It took browsers quite awhile afterward (or at least IE) to fully support the format, though with some JavaScript hacks we get support in earlier versions. We use PNG-8 or PNG-24 (for transparency over any colour) in place of GIF always now but it did indeed take awhile. The people I work with either say ping or pee en jee.

If SCSI was supposed to be pronounced sexy then "I need a 1TB sexy hard drive" would oft be said. As it is I believe SAS (Serial attached SCSI) is the replacement for SCSI. The obvious pronunciation is sas but perhaps it's supposed to be something like "I need a 2TB sassy hard drive."
posted by juiceCake at 8:51 AM on June 17, 2012


I've always pronounced it "jif". I also dislike people who use "data" as a plural.

I wonder if there's a connection.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 9:49 AM on June 17, 2012


The "acronym theory," that a hard G should be used because it's "Graphics" and not "Jraphics," simply does not hold water. If acronyms were always to be pronounced from their source words rather than as an independent new word, then by this very arrangement, "JPEG" would be pronounced "JFEG."
posted by pinothefrog at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always pronounced it "jif". I also dislike people who use "data" as a plural.

I wonder if there's a connection.


Yeah, you like to be wrong.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:03 AM on June 17, 2012


I will never pronounce it "jif". Ever. Seriously. Never.

I agree. It stands for Graphics Interchange Format - WITH A HARD G SOUND. If it were Giraffe Interchange Format, then I would pronounce it "JIF," however, it's Graphics Interchange Format, so it's "GIF" as in GIFT.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 3:44 PM on June 17, 2012


The "acronym theory," that a hard G should be used because it's "Graphics" and not "Jraphics," simply does not hold water. If acronyms were always to be pronounced from their source words rather than as an independent new word, then by this very arrangement, "JPEG" would be pronounced "JFEG."

fine. I don't say 'jif' for the same reason that I don't refer to young female humans as 'jirls'. You may point to the existence of gin, but I counter with an invitation to the gig. Most compelling of all, however, is the pre-existence of words such as 'jiffy' and derivatives thereof, such as detergents named 'Jif.' That's pronunciation was already assigned, and a basic principle of programming which can we can usefully transfer to the linguistic domain is that 'thou shalt not unnecessarily overload operators.' If there are two possible ways to pronounce a new word, then I'm always going to favor the one that minimizes the listener's confusion about the subject being described. Behold:

A: blah blah blah JIF blah blah.
B: Hurf durf imagemacros.
C: Oh you bought some new detergent? Great, let the attack upong the evil-smelling dish-monster commence!
A: Nay, I speak of a new file format.
C: Wut?

A: blah blah blah GIF blah blah.
B: Hurf durf imagemacros.
C: What is a GIF when it's at home?
A: I speak of a new file format.
C: Ah - fascinating! I'm going to get takeout because the sink is full.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:32 PM on June 17, 2012


Grrr, I get angry just thinking about the GIF patent. A couple of jobs back we had to write a report that counted all the user-uploaded GIFs in our system, so we could pay a royalty to Unisys. Not only was it wasted effort that could have been put to better use; I felt dirty aiding and abetting a patent troll.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:44 PM on June 17, 2012


If you accept that when a person names a child they get to decide how the word is pronounced, regardless of any existing rules or conventions, then shouldn't you also accept that when someone creates a type of file format we extend them the same consideration?
posted by Rhomboid at 6:42 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mee-fye, not meh-fee.
posted by desjardins at 7:29 PM on June 17, 2012


I hope they invent a GIF with sound one day.
posted by joelf at 7:37 PM on June 17, 2012


I saved this thread all weekend so I could spend a day at work looking at funny gifs and what do I get? A bunch of stupid arguing about how to pronounce a "word" that is 99% of the only ever written.

(and it's obviously jif, you morons.)
posted by DU at 5:12 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been pronouncing it "jiff" since I first encountered it on CompuServe, when it was still obviously a new acronym. Everyone that I knew did; I think the hard "g" pronunciation came later.

I am also in the "ess cue ell" and "scuzzy" camp.
posted by Chasuk at 5:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you accept that when a person names a child they get to decide how the word is pronounced, regardless of any existing rules or conventions, then shouldn't you also accept that when someone creates a type of file format we extend them the same consideration?

No.

Authorial intent only goes so far. Somebody can come up with a great file format, or cabling standard, or whatever, and saddle it with a stupid name. (Cf. "SCSI" and "sexy".) Since we can't ask the format itself how it feels about having a stupid name, at some point it just comes down to what most users want to call the thing that they have to work with every day.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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