President Barack Obama took sides on one of the most divisive debates in the history of the English language this week by declaring that the word “GIF” — an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format —is pronounced with a hard “G” sound,” as one would pronounce “gift,” “gaffe” or the “G” in “Benghazi.”
The president announced his decision during a meeting with Tumblr CEO David Karp at the White House on Tuesday.
"That is my official position,” Obama said, before posing for a GIF with Karp, who was in Washington to host a discussion on student loan reform. “I pondered it a long time."
The word’s pronunciation has been a point of contention for years. In 2013, the man who invented GIFs, Steve Wilhite, said the word should be pronounced "jif," although his announcement did little to quell the linguistic debate. (Because honestly, who pronounces “graphic” as “jraphic”?)
Obama’s decision will be unlikely to end the dispute, however, and his action could embolden Republicans to start calling them “JIFs,” if recent divisions in Washington are any indication, just because he says it the other way.
It remains unclear how this debate will shake out in the upcoming 2016 presidential race. Twitter messages to possible candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about how they pronounce “GIF” were not immediately returned on Friday.
Disclosure: Yahoo acquired Tumblr on May 20, 2013.