Some of my Daily Wire colleagues posted a poll on the office bulletin board this morning to ascertain the correct pronunciation of “gif,” the Graphics Interchange Format that spawned Baby Cha-Cha and changed the Internet forever. Roughly half of the office mistakenly chose “gif” with a hard “g,” while the other half answered correctly. Preference for the hard “g” seems especially pronounced among Millennials, one-third of whom according to one recent survey believe the world is flat.
There is little to debate. “Gif” is pronounced with a soft g, like the peanut butter. Facts don’t care about your feelings.
Not all words that begin “gi-“ are pronounced this way. Girls giggle when you give them gifts. Some words do indeed call for a hard “g,” as giant gipsy gigolos can attest. “But it isn’t the Jraphics Interchange Format!” Right. But acronyms pronounced as words take on the pronunciation of the new word, not the individual pronunciations of its component parts. “Scuba,” which stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus,” is pronounced “scooba,” not “scuhba.” “Captcha,” those annoying character strings that websites use for security, stands for “completely automated public Turing Test to tell computers and humans apart.” Nobody suggests we pronounce it “cawptkha.” Would you pronounce “sonar,” which stands “sound navigation and ranging,” as “sauwnar”?
Had the Graphics Interchange Format simply materialized, without context or history, either pronunciation would be equally valid. But the real world exists within context and history. The GIF was invented in 1987 by a computer scientist named Steve Wilhite, who insists upon the soft “g.” He explains, “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both definitions. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘g,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.” Wilhite’s verdict should lay the question to rest for all who respect the format’s inventor, particularly conservatives, particularly in these culturally turbulent times.
The “gif” debate boils down to a battle between linguistic prescription and description. Prescriptivists maintain that language may be used either properly or improperly; there are rules to follow, order to maintain, and objective reality to recognize. Descriptivists insist that any use of language is by definition proper because that is the way people are using the language; like, you know, man, anything goes. It should come as no surprise that Barack Obama pronounces “gif” with a hard “g.”
All men recognize that language evolves over time. Descriptivists, however, seek hasten that change, often to suit their political preferences. Lefties love description because they have so successfully transformed our culture and politics by perverting language. These days even pronouns aren’t safe from their destructive and deconstructive agenda. The Left spends so much time, energy, and money working to subvert the rules and order of our language because it serves their political ends.
Decadent and wayward cultures disdain discipline, respect, rules, and reality. Conservatives should not contribute to the crisis.