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Some years ago I was speaking to a group of designers and computer authors, and had the opportunity to talk about GIF files.

#86 Gif or Jif

Interesting how people in the audience like to make comments, and as a seasoned speaker, I always like to keep the presentation rolling in the face of adversity. On this occasion a person in the audience corrected my pronunciation of "GIF" using the 'J' sound (Jiffy), and corrected me saying, no, it's "GIF" as in 'gift' using the hard 'G'. Another from the audience spoke up saying, "No, I happen to know the developers, and they pronounce it using the "J" sound."

Of course wanting to move along with the presentation and ward off any further interruptions, I smoothed it over saying both are acceptable. The incident was quickly forgotten. Until this past August.

During the Macworld Boston seminar with Robin Williams, I referred to GIF files using my usual J sound, and was corrected by Robin. "No, Fred it's pronounced like 'Gift' with a hard 'G'. Once again, wanting to move along, I didn't argue. However when I returned from Boston I became obsessed with finding out which is actually correct.

Several hours on the web led me to the Cnet site which professes that BOTH pronunciations are correct, echoed by the Compuserve site which also endorsed both.

This didn't suit me. I knew there is an answer. Finally I found a reference to the original development team with names. I keyed the names into all of the internet look-up databases I could find. According to the reference, Steve Wilhite was the original team leader, and there were maybe a half dozen email addresses for Mr. Wilhite. All of which were returned addressee unknown. Several others were reached and all said "JIF" was the word used. One person volunteered that it was JIF because the graphics load in a jiffy. But still no definitive word.

Last month Adam Engst's "NetBits" newsletter posed the same question, "Is it GIF or JIF?" and I wrote to tell my story. They did not print my response, however the editor did take the challenge and succeed where I did not. In a later edition the blurb: "It's 'Jiff' and I Don't Want to Hear Another Word" wherein they relate mail from Charlie Reading who worked with the creator of GIF, Steve Wilhite. Charlie reported that Steve pronounced it "jiff", spinning off of a historically popular peanut butter commercial.

My applause and thanks go out to the editors of NetBits newsletter, for persevering and digging to the bottom of the debate.

Folks, it's "JIF" -- thank you.

TidBits is a wonderful weekly newsletter from the creators of the very popular and world-famous TidBITS. Find out all about them at!

Fred Showker

by the way... Fred and Robin are at it again... they'll be kicking some web butt this January in San Francisco at Macworld Expo 1997

Fred Showker is director of The Design & Publishing Center on the web at, and is a co-founder of both The User Group Forum on America Online, and The User Group Network at He has been a user group activist and supporter since 1984.

The Design & Publishing Center_ / _ DTG_ / _ DTG-Solutions_ / _ 60-Second Window

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