Watching Your Web Language

By Craig Buckler
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EnglishSince it’s the end of the week, I thought I’d look at some of the more bizarre stories that have been circulating the web during the past few days. Both involve English and I really pity anyone attempting to learn the language!

The Millionth English Word

According to Global Language Monitor (GLM), at 10:21 GMT on 10 June 2009 the English language consisted of precisely 999,999 different words. The millionth word appeared 1 minute later and earned its place in the dictionary. That word was: “Web 2.0”.

Despite “Web 2.0” being an existing word with a digit on the end, GLM received a significant amount of publicity for their announcement. They are a commercial company who scour the Internet for new terms. A word must be used at least 25,000 times across national boundaries and outside specialisms for it to pass GLM’s rigorous validation procedures.

My analysis may not be as thorough, but a simple search on Google reports over 45 million references. Yahoo reports 173 million references. Bing does even better with 2.2 billion references (so much for it being a “decision” engine!). It’s strange that Web 2.0 had not been considered before; the term has been around almost 10 years and has certainly been popular since 2004.

Lexicographers were quick to point out that the exact size of the English vocabulary is impossible to quantify. The Oxford English Dictionary also estimates that the number of words is nearer two-thirds of a million.

Whether it’s hype or a ridiculous publicity campaign, I’m looking forward to “Web 2.0” appearing in the dictionary. Perhaps we’ll finally have a description of what it really means!

The Correct Pronunciation of “GIF”

Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, was introduced by CompuServe in 1987. Show someone the word “GIF” and ask them to read it aloud. Most English speakers will pronounce it with a hard “g” as in “gift”. Unfortunately, they are wrong — it’s pronounced “jiff”, with a soft “g”, and the evidence is presented at the GIF Pronunciation Page.

Personally, I don’t think it matters what the original programmers intended; almost everyone pronounces GIF the way it is written. There are pedants who insist on using “jiff” but no one understands them! Do you prefer GIF or JIFF? I’m firmly in the GIF camp and my campaign to correct its pronunciation starts here!

(Incidentally, the PNG specification also insists on “ping” rather than “pee en gee”, but it’s an open standard so we can change that!)

  • Sid

    Jiff is a peanut butter. The important thing isn’t how to pronounce .gif, but to know when and when not to create a .gif. And another note, most people will say “jpeg”, but isn’t it so much more convenient to use .jpg?

  • Anonymous

    One that really annoys me is people calling SQL “sequel”. It’s ess kew ell!

  • Matijs

    Got another one. FAQ… ef ay queue or fak?

  • canassassin

    Personally I pronounce it Jiff and always have. Never knew the correct way, just assumed thats how you said it. I don’t think it matters, lots of people will understand either.

  • falcon505

    SQL sounds great as “sequel” – it’s all about ease off the tongue. No need to get annoyed :)

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    I certainly prefer “sequel” to “ess kew ell” (although I know someone who refers to it as “squirrel”!)

    However, what’s more confusing is the correct pronunciation of MySQL. Officially, it’s “mi ess kew ell” but it’s easier to say “my sequel”.

    And let’s not forget Adobe (ad-owb-ee)!

  • Glauco Antunes

    I can see that the matter question here isn’t the way that you will speak but how you’ll make be understood.
    Personally, I think that discutions like this will keep happening and will never find an end.
    In my oppinion, the internet is a new world language based on english.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    jiff where I am from is something you clean your toilet with and I don’t undertsand the reasoning behind calling it Jiff. The G within the acronym stands for graphics not jraphics.

    It also happens to be the first time I have come across this debate and I have never been corrected so I would guess (at least in the UK) that gif wins by far.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    @Craig Buckler

    “And let’s not forget Adobe (ad-owb-ee)!”

    I laughed the first timeI heard the official pronunciation, it sounds so serious.

  • Big Al

    Does that make a PDF (pee dee eff) a puduf then? Or did a sneeze… and is SQL (es kew el) Server is sequel serve then what happened to the original server?

  • http://www.magain.com/ Matthew Magain

    One of our language editors at SitePoint HQ may or may not have chosen to pronounce SQL “squeal” during the editing of our SQL book. Tongue in cheek, of course…

  • http://www.pageaffairs.com/ ralph.m

    I agree with artimis. Given that this initialism (not acronym) comes from “Graphics Interchange Format” (which begins with a hard g) is it ridiculous to pronounce GIF with a soft g. I don’t care what the originators think. They were not being reasonable.

    @Matijs: I pronounce FAQ as “far cue” (which is funny is you have an Australian or English accent).

  • http://www.pageaffairs.com/ ralph.m

    Ah heck, didn’t think. It IS an acronym. Sorry!

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis


    I bet people think you are being rude when you say that.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    I use gif with a hard g, SQL as individual letters – trying to make words out of initialisms sounds ridiculous to me, saying ‘sequel’ is just inventing letters that arent there just to make them fit! If you wanted to pronounce it as a word, it would be ‘sqwell’ or something! Almost as bad as backronyms.

  • http://www.pageaffairs.com/ ralph.m

    Indeed. Sorry for that little outburst of vulgarity. (I don’t really say it… Just couldn’t resist.)

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    I have learnt two new words today I assume they are Americanisms Initialism and backronym.

    It made me chuckle.

  • Ketira

    PNG = “ping”
    GIF – with hard G, thank you…. (I agree with Sid: “jiff” {spelled with one F} is peanut butter that doesn’t agree with me for some reason. I could digress, but I won’t. ;) )
    JPG has always been “j-peg”
    SQL gets its initials pronounced
    FAQ is “fak”; FREQ is “freak”…and I’m showing my age here.

    It’s just the way I’ve been taught down the years while talking to other nerds.

    p.s: my hobby – Gaia Online (http://www.gaiaonline.com/ ) has had a few threads on their Forums on how to pronounce the first word. Admins decided on “guy-ah”, so that’s what it is. ;)

    p.p.s: Did you know that “taxi” is pronounced the same way in 17 different languages?

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    The problem with saying SQL as ‘sequel’ (or MySQL as my sequel) is that it tends to confuse non-experts. I find quite a few people have heard of SQL or MySQL, but say ‘sequel’ to them and they just give you a blank look. There’s enough jargon in our field without complicating it further.

    With regards to ‘Web 2.0’, it can’t be a word because… it’s not a word. It’s a word and a digit, or a phrase. If you start including phrases as words, you’ll soon have a nearly infinite number.

  • ravi

    its funny. i wonder how its so complicated to pronounce “gif”. :D

  • Stevie D

    GIF is pronounced with a hard ‘g’, because (a) it stands for Graphics, which is pronounced with a hard ‘g’, (b) the only other regular word that starts ‘gif…’ is gift, which is also pronounced with a hard ‘g’.

    Until reading this article, I had never once heard a suggestion that it be pronounced Jif.

  • adimauro

    Given that this…comes from “Graphics Interchange Format”…it is ridiculous to pronounce GIF with a soft g. I don’t care what the originators think. They were not being reasonable.

    Yes, I agree completely. What are they thinking? Just because they created it, doesn’t mean they are right. GIF with a hard g is far more common, and accepted these days.

    SQL is tougher…yes, in the MySQL world, it is ‘es que ell’, but in the Microsoft world, everyone says ‘sequel’. It’s because SQL Server is pronounced ‘sequel server’. I’ve been to conferences at a Microsoft office, and even all the developers for Microsoft call it ‘sequel’. Then at a rails lecture…’es que ell’.

    I say ‘ef ay que’, I’ve never even heard of ‘fak’ before until reading the comments to this article! Lol! Maybe it depends on where you live.

    Finally, what about .org. Some say ‘Org’, others say ‘Oh Are Gee’, but I think the latter sounds too much like ‘orgy’! So, I say ‘Org’.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    just remembered another one.

    I once made a twat of myself when some fellow nerds were talking about Scuzzy drives. I lost all street cred that day :) for thse who have never heard it you may know of SCSI drives

  • http://www.adamfletcher.com Fletch

    I once heard a team refer to www as “dub dub dub”.

    Took me a while to realise what they were talking to but I suppose saying “dub dub dub ” is less of a mouthful than “double uwe, double uwe, double uwe”.

  • adimauro

    I once heard a team refer to www as “dub dub dub”.

    I still hear that from time to time…that and, ‘triple dub’.

  • adimauro

    Oh, that reminds me! I have also heard ‘hot potato triple dub’ for ‘http://www’

  • http://pierce.wavethunder.com/ bgil

    The funniest thing on the gif pronunciation page is Talbott in the hard g camp basically saying: Fine! I’ll pronounce it

    “you are jilty of the crime”
    (I think someone needs a spell checker.)

  • anotherguy

    The best I ever heard was “dot sh**-mail” for .shtml!

  • Benjamin Dobson

    GIF = giff.
    WWW = how Stephen Fry pronounces it, or “doubleuwe doubleuwe doubleuwe.”
    Adobe = a dough bee, how else would you pronounce it?
    SQL = ess queue ell. If it was pronounced “sequel” it would have two E’s and a U in it, right?
    FAQ = say the letters.
    PNG = say the letters.

    Anything else to throw my opinion on?

  • aliceslipped

    Every programming book I have ever read or seen on SQL has said in the introduction or first chapter to pronounce it “sequel.”

  • adimauro


    I have a few sitting right on my desk that use ‘ess que ell’. I can tell because they repeatedly write ‘an SQL query’ and not ‘a SQL query’.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Wow – I never thought pronunciation would cause so much debate!

    Did you realise that “SitePoint” is sit-ee-poy-nut?

  • ahenson26

    As for GIF, I always say “gif” not “jif”. Phonetically, it makes more sense to me with the English language. Considering words like gaffer, get, gift, or google, for example, that have a hard G, it just sounds better. Not to mention the whole “graphics” part of the acronym. Maybe if it meant “Giblet In Fowl” instead…lol.

  • adimauro


    Yes, the clincher is ‘gift’…it’s just gif + t, and it’s NOT pronounce jift! At least, I don’t want a jift for my birthday, whatever that is!

    @Craig Buckler

    Did you realise that “SitePoint” is sit-ee-poy-nut?

    LOL! Funny…

  • yoyo

    I pronounce GIF with a silent G. ;)

  • dev_cw

    I say S-Q-L but I have had old school devs say “that’s how you can tell and amateur from a pro since a pro would know to can it sequel”…sorry…but to me that is how you can tell the dev is a dinosaur!

    php = pee eich pee

  • Scott Cranfill

    All you people basing your infallible logic off of the pronunciation of the word “gift” are way off target. “Gift” is a standard WORD. GIF, on the other hand, is an acronym, and as the GIF Pronunciation Page points out, the pronunciation of an acronym is up to its creator.

  • Colin

    @Craig Buckler:
    Why is there any confusion on the pronunciation of Adobe? You do know it’s a real word, right? They didn’t make it up.

  • Gargoyle

    GIF, as in gift
    PNG, as ping
    Adobe, so it rhymes with robe
    Linux, as L-eye-nux (Yeah, I now know its supposed to be l-in-ux)

  • Jon

    Joosy jeeks joose gif.

    when some fellow nerds were talking about Scuzzy drives

    same here, never liked SCSI ever, after that miserable day. On another note, anybody wanna buy a scuzzy drive? Only been rebuilt twice!?! Only 1 left!

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    Asp like a snake or A.S.P?

  • perdrix

    There was a “g” rule that I was taught in elementary school which said that a g is presumed to be hard unless it is followed by an e or i, in which case it is presumed to be soft.

    Obviously, anyone familiar with the English language understands that there are a lot of exceptions to that rule.

    For the count though, I’ve always referred to gif with a soft g.

  • WebKarnage

    Definitely gif with the hard g here, and SQL as the 3 letters, unless the person I am discussing it with says sequel, then I’ll join in to make the client comfortable, as it’s about communication, not being pedantic!
    Jpeg as ‘jay peg’, png as the letters.
    org as it’s an abbreviation of organization, gets pronounced as the start of that word. It’s not three letters representing 3 words.
    FAQ I have said both as the letters and as fack!
    Brilliant set of fun comments to read this!

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    Sorry Craig, have to correct you. Sitepoint is actually pronounced; Sigh-Tep-Oy-Ent. Rolls off the tongue.

  • prafuitu

    This is the way it’s pronnounced: dʒɪf, with , just as you’d say giant. End of story.

  • benhunsaker

    @adimauro Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 11:33 pm
    Oh, that reminds me! I have also heard ‘hot potato triple dub’ for ‘http://www’

    I laughed out loud when I read this. Amazing!

  • Anonymous

    Lol nerd-gasms galore

  • Alex

    I think I’m going to adopt the “squeal” pronunciation…MySqueal, Squeallite, Microft Squeal Server. Running a query could be squealing. We could have squeals per second, Active record gives us objects that squeal, etc. It’s quite flexible.

  • http://altoonadesign.com halfasleeps

    I have always pronounced it JIFF..I do not know why, just the first time I saw it…It looked like JIFF to me…I always hear other people pronounce it GIFF so I always assumed it was really giff and I was just wrong…I but I have been calling it JIFF so long I couldn’t help but to continue…I am glad to hear that this whole time I have been right!! Also I call it p-n-g not PING….and I call it My-S-Q-L not My-Sequel.

  • tapiwa

    >>Obviously, anyone familiar with the English language understands that there are a lot of exceptions to that rule.

    When there are as many exceptions as the rule, it cannot be a rule, no?

  • tapiwa

    This whole debate reminds me of pronunciations for placenames in London, to make them sound *ahem* posh.

    Dagenham becomes Darge En Ham (French sounding.)
    Streatham becomes St Reatham
    Clapham becomes Clahmm (dragged out and softer)

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    Spelling something as GIF and trying to tell people it’s pronounced as jiff is like spelling your name as xlsdkfj but pronouncing it Bob. Pronunciations can’t just be fabricated at whim, we’re not animals.

  • Anonymous

    p.p.s: Did you know that “taxi” is pronounced the same way in 17 different languages?

    and yet some countries still refer to them as cabs …

    Just to be different I’ve heard www called “squasm” just for the heck of it.

    I agree that “Web 2.0” is a phrase, not a word. It has a space in it for goodness sake!

    This whole thing comes down to whether or not you can communicate your intentions clearly. I find I have more troubles in trying to tell people to type a dash (you know, the minus symbol!!!). Can’t believe so many people don’t know what a hyphen is :( At least if you spell an acronym, you can’t be misunderstood. Can’t say I’ve ever spelt GIF though when talking to people about GIF images.

  • Pacoup

    BTW, SQL has never been correctly pronounced “Sequel”. SQL is an acronym, not an abbreviation, thus it must be pronounced letter by letter: “S-Q-L”.

    Lol, you haven’t seen anything:
    PostgreSQL is pronounced: “Post-gress-Q-L”

    I also think GIF should be pronounced as seperate letters since it is afterall an acronym (Graphics Interchange Format), same thing for PNG (oh god, never Ping, now it’s too much like Bing).

    But I think I’ll never get used to call GIF “G-I-F” so I’ll stick with the hard G.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis


    Crouch End is also known as Crooshon
    and Barnet has an accent to become Barnét or baahnai


  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler


    Why is there any confusion on the pronunciation of Adobe? You do know it’s a real word, right? They didn’t make it up.

    Yes, but why do “adobe” and “abode” sound so different?

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    @Craig Buckler &Colin

    Adoab versus adoby

    I forget which one is right now.

  • Anonymous

    hard “g” as in “gift” for GIF is preferred.

  • markfiend

    /is puzzeld as to why anyone would pronounce Adobe any way other than a-DOUGH-bi.

  • markfiend

    puzzled *sigh*

  • infoimp

    .gif – hard g
    .png – ping
    SQL – sequel
    Adobe – like the common word
    PostgreSQL – post gray sequel

    and last but not least:

    URL – earl

    I think alot of the trouble arises because so many programmers are alone when they encounter these things and so it ends up however each individual is comfortable. It’s hard to change later…

  • shadowlurker

    I’ve always said giff, ping, seqel, jpeg, but I say B-M-P (or I’ll say bitmap…that’s what it is after all, but saying like bimp could be fun) and FAQ.

    I’ve never said anything other than ‘adobee’.

    In non technical…

    That sort of reminds me of Porsche. I always cringe when the E (well, ‘ah’) is dropped off. When I hear people say it like Porsch, it is like nails on a chalkboard.

    My dad can’t stand when people call BMWs beemers instead of bimmers.

  • Mr G

    .gif – hard g
    .png – Pee En Jee
    SQL – Ess Kew El
    Adobe – Ah-doh-bee
    MySQL – My Ess Kew El
    URL – You-are-el

    Other wise you get into the whole:
    DVD – Doovd
    DHL – Dahul
    PC – Puck
    (nicked from Fonejacker btw) ;)

  • infoimp

    shadowlurker Yeah, it’s Por-sha…but I do say Beemer…sorry!

    Mr G DVD – Doovd LOL! I’m gonna call ’em that from now on! Hilarious!!

    I used to say:

    .html – Hot Metal
    .shtml – Sheet Metal

  • whyulil

    I think we should all change from sequal to squeal cos databases tell on us all.

  • commandnotapple

    I’ve always called GIF ‘jif’…I don’t know why, but it just sounded better to my ear. ‘Gif’ just sounded off to me. And there should be no contestation for Adobe (ah-DOUGH-bee).
    As for SQL and ‘Sequel’ both of them are widely accepted in my area. Sequel does roll off the tongue easier though.

    Finally, I most definitely can’t stand PNG pronounced as ‘ping.’ It irritates my ears to no end.

    cranial-bore Says:
    June 21st, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Spelling something as GIF and trying to tell people it’s pronounced as jiff is like spelling your name as xlsdkfj but pronouncing it Bob. Pronunciations can’t just be fabricated at whim, we’re not animals.

    But GIF isn’t spelled PHP then called jiff, it’s spelled GIF and then called ‘jiff,’ so a connection is plausible, even if it is wrong.
    Pacoup Says:
    June 22nd, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    BTW, SQL has never been correctly pronounced “Sequel”. SQL is an acronym, not an abbreviation, thus it must be pronounced letter by letter: “S-Q-L”.

    I think it came about because when you say ‘SQL’ over and over, it becomes hard to speak clearly. Saying ‘sequel’ is much easier when you have to say it many times.

  • Nerd

    This post and its comments have brought me so much joy.

  • rob

    I have to agree with Sid’s response at the very top. It’s not important how to pronounce GIF or JPEG as it is to know the difference between the two. We could spend a lifetime trying to correct the way people pronounce words. Potato, Po tah toe.

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