Exit 157. Mystery blogger award.

Hi, friends.  Alli over at Hey Worms tagged me in something called the “Mystery Blogger Award.”  I’m not sure what’s so mysterious about it, but it gives me a topic for this week’s post, and this was a busy week, away from my usual routine, so an award like this with the topic all spelled out for me is just what I need.  By the way, go check out Alli’s page; you’ll be glad you did.

So I have to do all of this stuff:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog.
    (Done, see first paragraph)
  • Mention the creator of the award
    (The creator is someone called Okoto.  I don’t follow Okoto’s site; maybe I should go check it out one of these days.)
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Ask nominees any 5 questions of your choice
  • Share the link to your best/favorite post of yours.

I guess I’m on the step where I have to tell three things about myself. I did another one of these blog award things a few months ago where I had to tell things about myself, so I’m not going to repeat any of those things.

  1. I’ve been to 112 different In-N-Out Burgers.  In-N-Out Burger is a drive-thru burger place that started in the 1940s near Los Angeles.  Their menu has stayed pretty simple over the years: burgers, fries, shakes, drinks, that’s it.  No chicken nuggets or salads or kale and broccoli wraps with pine nuts or anything.  They were exclusively located in southern California until the early 1990s; since then, they have expanded to over 300 locations in six states in the western and southwestern US.  I had my first In-N-Out Burger in late 1997 and was instantly hooked.  Two friends from college (one of whom was Jeff from 80isenough, a frequent commenter on this site) were talking about taking a road trip in the summer of 1998 to go to every single In-N-Out Burger in existence (there were 130 of them at the time).  They never did it, but that inspired me to go to as many different ones as I could, just for fun.  So if I’m on a road trip through a part of the country with In-N-Out Burger restaurants, I’ll take a little side trip to check one off my list, or sometimes I’ll go to two or three of them and only get one item at each one so I can check off more than one.
  2. I’ve never had kale, as far as I know.  I make fun of kale all the time, but I don’t really have an opinion on it; it’s just easy to make fun of.  Kale is basically the Nickelback of vegetables.
  3. Let’s see, how about one that isn’t about food… My first gray hair and my first kiss on the lips came in the same year, in that order.  That could mean that I started getting gray hair unusually young, or that could mean I didn’t kiss anyone until I was older than most.  I’ll let you decide which one you think is true.

I’m also supposed to answer questions that Alli asked to the people she nominated.  For some reason, that isn’t on the list of things to do that I got.  Hmm.

  1. What is one big decision you made in your life that could have changed everything?  I’m not entirely sure about the wording of this question, but I’ll say that I quit my job in 2005, spent four months traveling trying to find myself, and eventually moved to where I am now.  Had I not done that, I probably would have stayed in the same job where I was, as I gradually became more and more cynical and felt more and more out of place, and more and more disillusioned with Christianity since one of the major reasons I moved was because I couldn’t find a church.  I probably would have reached my breaking point of being tired of life a few years later, when California was in a budget crisis and not hiring teachers.  Maybe I would have moved out of state.  Would that have been better or worse than the life I have now in the long run?  I don’t know.
  2. Would you rather be poor and in love or rich without a partner?  I can’t decide, because either one is an improvement over being poor without a partner.  I should point out, though, that I’m really not poor from the perspective of how most people on planet Earth live.  This is also a tough question because I don’t really don’t know what it feels like to be in love in a healthy way.  I’ve experienced all of the pain of relationships with little to none of the good times.  Even my five months in my late 20s with Vega the Nice Ex weren’t really representative of what it’s like to be in love, because that was a medium-distance relationship and we only saw each other in person a couple times a month.  My gut instinct is to say I’d rather be poor and in love, but sometimes I wonder if maybe being in love isn’t right for me.  I’d have someone around all the time.  Would that be difficult for me as an introvert?  I still tend to think that if I were really with the right person, we’d find a way to work it out.  So I’ll go with poor and in love.
  3. What’s a fun fact you know that most might not?  Are you kidding?  Just one?  I’m full of fun facts that most people might not know.  I’ll go with this one that most of my real life friends have heard me say: “Business Route 80” in Sacramento (an old routing of Interstate 80 that has since been bypassed) is actually state highway 51 on paper.  Caltrans doesn’t want to put 51 on signs, because apparently they think that this would be too confusing having highways 50 and 51 in the same city.  Apparently having two different highway 80s in the same city is less confusing, but this kind of nonsense is typical of California’s state government.
  4. What is one of your favorite lyrics?  My screen name on this and several other sites is literally one of my favorite lyrics, so I should probably go with that one.
    Live a life less ordinary
    Live a life extraordinary with me
    — Carbon Leaf, “Life Less Ordinary” (2004)
  5. Why did the chicken cross the road?  Because the chicken was moving with a velocity vector that intersected the line of the road, for enough time that the absolute value of the coordinate of this intersection point minus the coordinate of the chicken continued to decrease until it became negative.

Next, I have to nominate 10-20 people.  I don’t like this step, because some people like doing these and some don’t.  So I’ll nominate anyone reading this.  If you want to do this post in your blog, or other social media site, go for it.  And if you are, these are your five questions:

  1. What is one of your favorite bands that most people have not heard of?
  2. What was a time when something that happened in a way that you didn’t want ended up being better in the long run?
  3. If someone made a movie about your life, who should play you?
  4. Have you ever met someone in a really unusual, noteworthy, or humorous way, and ended up becoming really close with the other person?  Tell me about it.
  5. Are we there yet?

And finally, I have to link to my favorite of my own posts.  This is a hard one… but I’m probably going to go with #86, in which I discussed the correct pronunciation of the term “.gif.”  People get so worked up over this, and it says some interesting things about us and language.


Exit 86. One side is clearly correct and the other is clearly wrong.

I’m going to weigh in here on a controversial issue: the pronunciation of “.gif,” a file type used for computer graphics.  The file format was created in the early days of the Internet for the quick sending and receiving of color logos and icons (but the format is not ideal for photographs).  Short animated icons, like those little pictures you can add into Facebook messages, also often use the .gif format.  Ever since the coining of this term, there has been a great deal of debate regarding whether this term should be pronounced with a hard G (like the G in the word “give”) or with a soft G (like “Jif,” the brand of peanut butter).

Those who advocate the soft G pronunciation typically point out that a G before E, I, or Y is pronounced soft in English, as in gin, gym, or germ.  When I was in elementary school, this rule was taught in the early grades as part of the reading and spelling curricula, although I’ve met many younger people who act like they never learned this rule.  Those who favor the hard G pronunciation point out that English spelling rules often have widespread exceptions (get, girl, gynecologist), and that the term “.gif” itself is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, and “graphics” is pronounced with a hard G.

What is interesting about this debate is that, other than most other controversial issues, one side is clearly correct and the other is clearly wrong.  The correct pronunciation is “jif.”  It is a well-documented fact that Steve Wilhite, the programmer who led the team that created .gif, has said many times that the correct pronunciation is “jif.”  The argument that “graphics” has a hard G is completely irrelevant; there is no precedent for pronouncing the letters in acronyms the way they are pronounced in their parent words.  For example, the U and A in “scuba” stand for “underwater” and “apparatus,” respectively, yet the pronunciation of these letters in “scuba” does not match the pronunciation in “underwater” or in “apparatus.”  If we stay within the world of computer graphics, “.jpeg” is consistently pronounced “jay-peg,” even though the P stands for “photographic,” which does not contain the P sound from the syllable “peg.”

To me, this debate seems to parallel the debate between absolute vs. relative morality.  Yes, that escalated quickly, but follow me here.  Are some things absolutely right or wrong in every circumstance, or is everything relative to the surrounding circumstances?  Many monotheistic religious traditions, including Christianity, have Scriptures that dictate some moral absolutes.  Other belief systems may say that the world changes, and what is right and wrong is never set in stone for all time.  In Christianity, for example, God gave his people commandments on which to base their moral standards and laws.  God created the universe and the human race, which gives him the right and the responsibility to dictate morality.  Of course, there is considerable debate surrounding which Scriptures are meant to be absolute morals, and which are meant to be specific instructions to specific cultures.  For example, are Paul’s teachings about the way women should dress in response to a specific issue at the church in first-century Corinth, or something that all Christian women should follow for all time?  Were Paul’s writings about homosexuality meant to address the specific ways that the first-century Romans were committing infidelity, or the general concept that homosexual relations themselves are not God’s design for humanity?  I’m not going to try to answer those questions here.  But it is difficult to call oneself a true follower of Christianity without acknowledging that there are at least some moral absolutes dictated by God, and the same is true for many other belief systems that involve deities.

Dictionaries that include “.gif” as a word are inconsistent as to which pronunciation is listed, as well as which pronunciation is listed first if they include both.  A similar debate to that of absolute or relative morality is that of prescriptive or descriptive dictionaries.  Should a dictionary prescribe what is correct in language, or should it describe common usage, even though what is commonly used may have been considered incorrect at one time?  Historically, languages have evolved naturally, and different dialects of the same language separated by large geographical distances and limited contact eventually become less mutually intelligible and give birth to new languages.  This is how Latin eventually became Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian, for example.  Is the hard-G pronunciation of “.gif” a natural evolution of language, or is it something that Mr. Wilhite has a right to call incorrect?  It is interesting that those who use evolution of language to justify using their preferred obnoxious slang terms, like “bae” as a term of affection, are rarely so quick to justify using equally obnoxious slang terms that contrast with their existing views, like “gay” or “retarded” as synonyms for “stupid.”  Again, note the interesting parallel with moral relativism.

Fortunately, this is not a moral issue.  It is really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things if one pronounces “.gif” with a hard G, and no one gets hurt by it.  I won’t think less of you as a human being if you use the hard G.  But thinking about this really just goes to show how powerful language can be in shaping our thinking.  The way I see it, though, for this one specific word, it is pretty clear that the word was coined by one specific individual who intended for it to be pronounced with a soft G.  So I will continue to pronounce it like “jif.”