on language

President Obama’s Campaign Tech Team Insists That GIF Is Pronounced With a Hard G

Steve Wilhite and David Karp speak onstage at the 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2013 in New York City.
David Karp (soft-G proponent) gives the lifetime achievement award to Steve Wilhite (soft-G zealot). Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The debate over the proper pronunciation of GIF, always a hot topic in the world of Internet nerds, was front and center at last night’s 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street. Taking home a lifetime achievement award was none other than the inventor of the GIF himself, Steve Wilhite, who, earlier in the day, reiterated to the Times that, despite all common sense, GIF should be pronounced with a soft G. Wilhite hammered home this decree once more in an acceptance speech last night.

Nevertheless, the guests at the Webbys were decidedly mixed on the subject. David Karp, the suddenly extremely wealthy Tumblr founder, told Daily Intelligencer, “I usually do JIF. I usually try to do it properly. I don’t really care; I won’t correct anybody, but I usually go with JIF. Both are pretty weird words.” But Karp did add that soft J makes no sense. “It’s Graphic Interchange Format, and you would think it was a ‘Gah’ sound, a hard G,” he admitted.

Randi Zuckerberg, the former Facebook executive and sister of Mark, told us she’s always pronounced it with a hard G. But now that she’s aware of Wilhite’s soft-J proclamation, her “whole world has been turned upside down.”

Nobody felt as strongly about the pronunciation of GIF, though, as the tech team from President Obama’s e-campaign.

Fuck that shit,” Harper Reed, Obama’s former chief technology officer, told us. “It is GIF.”

It is GIF all the way, and I do not care what the founder thinks,” added Teddy Goff, the Obama campaign’s digital director.

If people think it’s JIF,” Michael Slaby, Obama’s former chief integration and innovation officer, chimed in,”they’re not very smart.”

Goff argued that it really doesn’t matter what Wilhite says. “Sometimes you create a monster and that monster takes on a life of its own, and the GIF has taken on a life of its own apart from the founder and his intent.” Despite Wilhite’s preference, a hard G is now correct.

The Internet has decided,” Slaby declared.

Obama Tech Team on GIFs: Hard G!