How do you pronounce it?

The perfect reaction, answer to a question, or just a total #mood, the GIF is one of the most commonly used communication tools in the digital era. Who knew a two second graphic on a loop could capture everything you were trying to say? Well, actually, developer Steve Wilhite and his team at tech giant CompuServe did (but they didn’t know it at the time).

More than 3 decades ago, the team at CompuServe needed to solve a problem: They needed a simple graphics format that would seamlessly display across all computers. The market was split between several companies, including IBM, Atari, Commodore, Tandy, and Apple. Each company had its own way of doing things, including displaying graphics. Despite how each brand chose to display graphics, all users shared a collective problem: space.

I’ll save you the full history lesson because if you’re anything like me, memories of dial-up internet and glacially slow download speeds give you a bit of a headache. Fast forward to the 2010s, after a worldwide movement to obliterate the GIF entirely, the once intended development of the GIF for things like weather maps, stock charts, and graphs resurged, and evidently, took the internet by storm.

The pronunciation of the GIF has been under debate for some time. If you’re on the hard “G” side of the fence, you might argue that because the word “graphic” begins with the hard “guh” sound, that would be the correct way to say it. But, ultimately, according to its creator, you’d be wrong. The inventor of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, is adamant that you pronounce GIF with a soft “g,” so, basically a “j”. Personally, it’s one of those words I try to avoid saying entirely, due to the fear of judgement (gudgement? 😉) of saying it wrong.

Me when someone asks me how I pronounce GIF

Don’t feel bad if you’ve been pronouncing it incorrectly, or if you continue to do so, as polls indicate that the majority of people are totally on your side and actually prefer the hard “g” approach. And the Oxford Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. A huge pro of the hard “g” is the differentiation between these popular 2 second videos and the well-known peanut butter brand. The only question I have is: when are these two things really contextually confused?

Me when someone agrees with how to pronounce GIF

Me when someone pronounces GIF the opposite way I do

Take Buzzfeed for example. They’ve created an empire based around full length articles made up entirely of GIFs. They bring a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the written word, encompassing an entire point or feeling in a matter of 2 seconds. While I can read an article without a GIF or two to break it up, do I really want to?

Me when I read an article without any GIFs

As a marketer, you might be asking yourself am I just hopping on the bandwagon? Do I really need to get on board with this fad? The answer, as I see it, is that fads are fads for a reason, no matter how silly or trivial they may be. Things become popular and we don’t always agree (for me, it’s the Kardashians. Ugh.), but we can learn to adapt or get left behind.

It’s like watching a movie about teenagers written by 50-year-olds – it feels out of touch and forced. To get on board with something you’re not completely immersed in is difficult. But the fact is, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If you’re not in immersed in GIFs or pop culture, but the audience you’re speaking to is, your words (or two second videos) may be falling on deaf ears.

Consider doing your research – look at how people are interacting online, and tailor your message to fit. Don’t force it – learn it. You might be surprised when your engagement starts to increase. #Goals.

Whatever side you’re on, I think we can all agree that GIFs always know what to say, even when we don’t. Whether you’re losing an argument and need to clap back with a sassy little loop, or you’re foraging the tinder universe and you’re at a loss for a smooth pick-up line, the GIF always has your back.

Do you have a favourite GIF? The TLM staff sure does..









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