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10:46am on Friday, 10th April, 2020:



It amazed me when I found out that some people pronounced the file extension "gif" as "jif". It had never occurred to me that it might be the latter. It's clearly the former, because it's short for Graphics Interchange Format. It was developed at CompuServe, and all the people I met there pronounced it with a hard G, so why would it be pronounced like a J?

The answer seems to be that there are many words in English that start with GI and are pronounced as if they started JI.

Hmm, how many?

To the dictionary!

The dictionary in question is Collins English Dictionary, Millennium Edition, because that's the one on the shelf behind me. Words beginning GI begin at the end of page 645 and end ha;f-way down the first column of page 650.

I went through all the words in the list, ignoring ones that were:
abbreviations (such as GI)
proper nouns (such as Gideon)
compound nouns (such as giant hogweed)
derivatives (such as given)
prefixes (such as giga).

In addition to regular words, I included:
slang (such as git)
dialect (such as gie)
medical terms (such as gingivitis)
plant names (such as gillyflower).

I classified words by how the dictionary said they were pronounced. Four words (gibber, gill, gin, ginnel) could either be pronounced with either a hard or soft G (such as ginnel, which is a Northern English sialect word for a narrow passage between buildings), or had more than one meaning which had different pronounciations (such as gill, the respiratory organ of fishes, and gill, a quarter of a pint).

I classified all non-hard pronunciations as a soft G, even though there are two main ways to go with it. The G at the start of some soft-G words (giant, giraffe) is not pronounced the same as it is for others (gigue, gite). I did this because I don't know if the JIF people go with more of a DZHIF or a ZHIF.

[Edit: changed, because originally I put gingham in the wrong list.]
The result was actually quite close. There were 39 words in the hard G list and 36 in the soft G list. Here they are:

Hard G:
gi, gib, gibbon, gibbous, gibbsite, gibli, gid, giddap, giddy, gidgee, gie, gift, gig, giggle, gilbert, gild, gilgai, gillie, gimel, gimlet, gimmick, gimp, ging, gingham, gink, ginko, gird, girdle, girl, girn, girr, girt, girth, git, gittarone, gittern, give, gizmo, gizzard.

Soft G:
giant, giaour, giardiasis, gibberellin, gibbet, gibe, giblets, gibus, gigolo, gigot, gigue, gilet, gillion, gillyflower, gimbals, gimcrack, ginger, gingili, gingiva, gingivitis, ginglymus, ginseng, gio, gip, gipon, gippy, gipsywort, giraffe, girandole, girasol, giro, giron, gisarme, gist, gite, giusto.

The hard G numbers are boosted by Scottish and Australian words. The soft G numbers are boosted by French and Italian words.

If I consider only words that I occasionally use, the lists become:
Hard G (21):
gibbon, gibbous, giddy, gift, gig, giggle, gild, gillie, gimlet, gimmick, gimp, gingham, ginko, gird, girdle, girl, girth, git, give, gizmo, gizzard.

Soft G (14):
giant, gibbet, gibe, giblets, gigolo, gigue, gimbals, ginger, gingivitis, ginseng, giraffe, gisarme, gist, gite.

This is much more in favour of the hard G, although obviously the list is going to be different for different people.

If I further remove words that don't pronounce the I following the G the way that both the GIF and JIF pronunciations have it, I get:

Hard G (17):
gibbon, gibbous, giddy, gift, gig, giggle, gild, gillie, gimlet, gimmick, gimp, ginko, git, give, gizmo, gizzard.

Soft G (10):
gibbet, giblets, gigolo, gimbals, ginger, gingivitis, ginseng, giraffe, gisarme, gist.

Next time someone tries to tell me it's pronouned JIF, I shall instruct them to give the giddy, giggling gibbon a gilded, gingham gizmo as a gimmicky gift.

Why yes, I have indeed finished my assignment marking — how did you guess?

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