‘Why-Fi’ or ‘Wiffy’? How Americans Pronounce Common Tech Terms

By Megan Garber

Okay, once and for all: Is it “gif” or “jif”?

EBay Deals, which runs a blog, decided to find out. Its team surveyed 1,100 people—U.S. residents, ranging in age from 18 to 45—asking them about the terms they use to describe some of the most common objects and actions of digital life. And about the way they pronounce those terms when they’re discussing them IRL, which is pronounced I-R-L. The team, a representative told me, started by issuing a round of questions to 200 people, asking for open-ended answers; once they got a selection of three or four common terms—”remote,” for example, as well as “remote control,” “clicker,” and “controller”—they polled the entire group to get a sense of the popularity of each term. 

Their findings? “Remote,” it turns out, is much more commonly used than “clicker.” But there were more surprising findings, as well. For example: More than 30 percent of eBay’s respondents pronounce the word “meme” as “me-me,” which is as fun to say as it is incorrect. And nearly 43 percent of those respondents pronounce “data” as “dah-tuh,” eBay said—a nod to the original Latin, maybe, but also a snub to certain androids.

And the whole “gif” vs. “jif” thing? Nearly 54 percent of respondents use the hard-g version, compared to nearly 41 percent who use the soft. And more than 5 percent use another pronunciation entirely—which makes you wonder whether there’s a group of Americans going to Buzzfeed, scrolling down, and remarking to themselves about all the animated jeefs.



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