The Most Absurd Religious War in Geek History is in the News Today

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The creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, caused a firestorm today by weighing in on the correct pronunciation of his creation:

He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

This is not the first time Wilhite has handed down this decree. It’s never been the end of the story before, and needless to say, it was not the end of the story this time either. But I bring this up not to declare my own allegiance, but to ask a different question. I need some honest input from old timers here.

As near as I can remember, controversy over the pronunciation of GIF has existed practically from the day of its birth. Nevertheless, my recollection is that 20 years ago, most people pronounced it JIF. The hard-G contingent was a distinct minority. But that seems to have changed over time. Today, my sense is just the opposite: most people pronounce it with a hard G, and the Jiffies are now a small rump fighting a rearguard action.

Everyone has such strong opinions about what the pronunciation should be that it’s hard to solicit opinions on the purely empirical question of how it has been pronounced. But I’m going to ask anyway. Please don’t bother answering unless you were born before 1970. For those of you who were, and especially for those of you who worked in the tech industry in the 80s and 90s, what’s your recollection? Has the favored pronunciation changed, or has the hard G always been the more popular choice?

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