One of the internet’s oldest and most pedantic debates is over the pronunciation of the word “GIF,” also known as “Graphics Interchange Format,” also known as those animated images that have become an inescapable core of online participation. This endless back and forth — is it pronounced with a soft “G” like “gym,” or with a hard “G” like “gift”? — peaked in 2013, when even the White House weighed in (hard “G”), and when GIF Daddy himself, computer scientist Steve Wilhite, declared: “It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
There’s nothing more to add to this argument; acolytes of the soft “G” can cite the preferences of the creator himself, while those who favored the hard “G” continued to do so, secure in the knowledge that language changes, and, in the words of John Simpson, then-chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, “a coiner effectively loses control of a word once it’s out there.” In this kind of low-stakes dispute, people get unnecessarily riled up, and neither side is inclined to change their minds, so the best course of action is to just let it be, because frankly, who actually gives a shit?
The BRANDS, that’s who.
Jif, the peanut butter maker, has partnered with Giphy, the GIF database, to resurface this dull debate, with a limited run of special labeled peanut butter jars. One side of the label aligns GIF with the hard “G” pronunciation and the definition “animated looping images”; the other side defines Jif as “creamy peanut butter” pronounced with a soft “G,” and chosen by choosy moms.
“We’re teaming up with Giphy to put a lid on this decade-long debate and provide there is only one Jif,” said Rebecca Scheidler, Jif’s vice president of marketing, in a press release. “Jif is peanut butter, GIFs are animations!”
In 2013, Jif took the opposite stance, publicly celebrating Father GIF Wilhite’s ruling that the bitmap image format is pronounced like “jif.” The peanut butter brand even created its own Jif GIF reeking of smugness and fresh-roasted peanuts.
Do principles mean nothing anymore? To not only drag up this cursed debate from the depths of hell, but to flip-flop on its original stance in order to shill double-sided labels, Jif has revealed its fickleness. Between this and Planters’ duplicitous slaying of Mr. Peanut, it’s become increasingly difficult to find an honest, blissfully offline major peanut-product brand. It’s almost like advertising is insincere and opportunistic by nature.