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Yes, We Pronounce It With a Hard 'G'

One of the OGs of the GIF industry feels pretty strongly about it.


We get asked a lot of questions about GIFs. Like, why are GIFs the fastest-growing media format on the Web? Or, why could words be a thing of the past? But there is one question we get asked more than any other: “Do you pronounce Giphy with a soft G, as in ‘giraffe,’ or a hard G, as in ‘go’?”

For those who might not know, the pronunciation of “GIF” is something of a spirited debate. Just over two years ago, the inventor of the GIF (thank you!), Steve Wilhite, tried to put the controversy to rest by proclaiming that GIF is, in his wisdom, pronounced with a soft G sound. And yet, it just feels odd that GIFs share their name with a certain creamy nut-flavored spread (and one that tried to capitalize on the confusion).


You’re probably wondering why we care so much — GIF, JIF, tomato, tomahto … let’s call the whole thing off. Well, we happen to be the ridiculously lucky people who built Giphy, the world’s largest search engine for GIFs. And so we care a great deal about all things GIF, including how it’s pronounced. It’s for this reason that we’re sharing the Top 5 reasons why we pronounce GIF with a hard G.

5. For the uninitiated, GIF is actually an acronym that stands for Graphics Interchange Format. Originally called 87a, GIFs were first introduced by CompuServe in 1987 (thanks once more, Steve Wilhite!) as an image file whose compressed format would enable them to load easily even on slow modems (remember when that was a thing?). But that’s not the most interesting part for this examination. The most interesting part is that the G in “GIF” stands for Graphics … which is pronounced with a hard G. Hmmm.


4. When it comes to pronouncing things, Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known As) isn’t a total authority, but, then again, his name is Prince. That said, the man has sold more than 100 million albums and can rock the color purple and assless pants like nobody’s business, so when he says it’s a hard G, we believe him.

3. And speaking of credible sources, there are few people who can claim the authority of the President of the United States (43 of them, to be precise). So imagine our surprise when President Obama took a break from getting everyone health care, helping gay marriage see legalization, arguing with Congress and greeting foreign dignitaries to weigh in on the debate. We were not surprised, however, to see that he came down on the side of the hard G. If it’s good enough for the leader of the free world, it’s good enough for us.

2. Lest you think that this is purely a domestic debate, it’s worth noting that no less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary and the Cambridge Dictionary of American English cite the sole acceptable pronunciation as the one with the hard G. And if there’s anyone who’s an expert on propriety, it’s the Brits. (I mean, have you seen “Downton Abbey”?)

1. This brings us to a less academic, but certainly no less weighty reason. We feel very strongly that there is a little bit of a G in everyone. An OG, perhaps. A hard G for sure. We’re all challengers, inventors, dreamers, thinkers, explorers, pioneers … building a future together, all in our own cool ways. And every hard G deserves … a hard G, because, damn it, it feels good to be a gangster.


So there you have it. We hope we’ve helped put this debate to rest. After all, the GIF brings so much joy to hundreds of millions of people on a daily basis. We owe it to the medium that brought us this …

And this …

And this …


… to say it like this.

Adam Leibsohn is COO of Giphy. He is a product, marketing and communications strategy specialist with degrees in French, English and philosophy. His strategies and work have been featured in Fast Company, Wired Magazine, the Harvard Business Review, CNBC and the New York Times, and he has been listed as one of Details Magazine’s “Digital Mavericks.” Reach him @adamcl.

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