Let’s Put an End to the Gif vs Jif Debate
It’s been the most polarizing debate of our time, and we’re not talking about whether pineapple goes on pizza. No, we’re talking about the dispute that’s dragged our good name into the front lines of pronunciation combat. We’re talking about JIF vs. GIF. Soft G vs Hard G. And we think it’s time you talked about it, too.
While the two words may look similar, they have vastly different meanings and pronunciations.
Jif® is peanut butter. GIFs are looping animations.
A Brief History of GIFs
The Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, has become a ubiquitous part of the internet experience. The history of GIFs dates back to 1987, when developer Steve Wilhite and his team at CompuServe, an early internet service provider, looked for a solution that allowed “a computer [to] display an image while also saving memory.”
CompuServe initially introduced the GIF format “almost exclusively for still images,” allowing users to compress and send files on early computer systems that had limited processing power and memory. The format was designed to transmit images quickly over slow internet connections. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that GIFs really took off as a way to share animated images.
One of the earliest uses of GIFs was for creating simple, looping animations known as “banner ads.” These were small, animated images used to advertise products and services on websites.
As the internet grew in popularity, so did the use of GIFs. Today, GIFs are still a popular way to share animated images online, and are widely used on social media, messaging apps, and other online platforms. The creation of GIFs is easier than ever, allowing users to create and share their own animations.
The Pronunciation Debate
The pronunciation of GIF has been a topic of debate since the format’s creation. The discourse is rooted in the fact that the “g” in “GIF” can be pronounced two different ways.
Supporters of the soft “g” argue the fact that the creators intended for it to be pronounced that way. Wilhite has noted that using the soft “g” sound is consistent with the pronunciation of words that use “g” followed by “i” and “e,” such as “giant. He argues that using a hard “g” sound would be inconsistent.
Despite the original intent, many people continue to pronounce GIF with a hard “g” sound. Those who prefer this inflection argue that it is more logical because it follows the pronunciation rules for similar words, like “gift,” “give,” and “giraffe.”
Despite the debate over how to pronounce GIF, there’s really no question how Jif is pronounced. Said like “jog,” “jump,” or “jacket,” the “j” produces a brief, explosive sound, accompanied by the sound of the vowel that follows.
So, when is it OK to call a GIF a “Jif”?
It’s worth noting that the discussion over the pronunciation of GIF extends beyond linguistics and language rules. Many people have strong opinions about which pronunciation is correct, often based on personal preference and cultural background.
But if you ask us, there’s only one Jif® Brand.
 Boissoneault, Lorraine. “A Brief History of the GIF, From Early Internet Innovation to Ubiquitous Relic.” Smithsonian Magazine, 2 June 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/brief-history-gif-early-internet-innovation-ubiquitous-relic-180963543.
 Boissoneault, Lorraine. “A Brief History of the GIF, From Early Internet Innovation to Ubiquitous Relic.”