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Why the internet has waged war over the pronunciation of ‘GIF’

The English language is hard to nail down, even if it’s your native tongue. But for every strange tense and unusual idiom, there’s one specific piece of the English language that stands out among the online world. And it’s not even a word — it’s an acronym:


How do you pronounce it? With a soft G, as its creator has claimed it to be in the past? Or with a hard G, as many believe it should be?

Whatever your personal preference or opinion on the matter is, it’s safe to say the world will never agree upon one pronunciation. To explain why this debate is such a heated one, Mike Rugnetta, host of the PBS Idea Channel, has created a thorough video explaining how the acronym has defined itself as a cultural phenomenon that points out the intricacies of the English language and those who speak it.

Beyond giving the history of the acronym and explaining the unusual debates surrounding its phonetic interpretations, Rugnetta also shares his own interpretation of how the acronym should be said.

“Whether you like it or not, when you say the word G-I-F, especially on the internet, people are gonna talk about it,” the video’s description says. “Some will correct you, some will correct the people correcting you, it’s the same conversation every time. Over and over and over. Which is why Mike proposed a third pronunciation way back when: Zhaif … because if you can’t beat them, leave town and set up camp in the wilderness.“

Although Rugnetta’s third pronunciation is a bit tongue-in-cheek, he proves a wonderful point in the video. With all of the other words and phrases that differ throughout the English language, why is this three-letter acronym the one the internet goes to war over?

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