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Soup of This Day #311: Just Too Heaven Sent

May 23, 2013

Kentucky Jif plant
The Jif plant in Kentucky is the world’s largest peanut butter production facility – GIF: Dwight Burdette, 2011. Dwight Burdette is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped and converted from JPEG (pronounced ‘tortoise’) by Longworth72.

There is an important debate underway in the IT world. It’s ostensibly around how to pronounce an oft-used acronym, GIF.

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format – It is essentially a file type, a kind of way of presenting a picture, that was developed in 1987 by Steve Wilhite at CompuServe. Wilhite wanted his creation to have a name synonomous with ‘Jif’, the peanut butter brand he and his colleagues liked to eat, and so he has decreed that the correct pronunciation matches that, i.e. GIF with a soft ‘g’, as in ‘gest’.

But not actually ‘in gest’. He’s a bit serious about the whole deal.

Unfortunately for Steve you almost never get to pick your own handles and most of the rest of the world isn’t overly bothered by the affiliation to peanutty spread. As such, folks tend to lead off GIF with a hard ‘g’, as in ‘got other stuff’.

Because mostly they have ‘got other stuff’ to worry about. Like tornadoes and terrorists for instance, which however you pronounce them, are really not good. It’s also worth noting that the Oxford English Dictionary, known as the OED to linguistics groupies, amiably directs that either pronunciation, soft or hard ‘g’, is just great.

Those OED folks are switch hitters.

Here at Longworth72 though I’m not completely oblivious to Steve’s concern. Being an IT dude myself I’m hip to his vibe and I think that this particular debate is only the tip of a vast iceberj.

Yep, I’m talking about the grossly unfair discrimination aimed squarely at soft ‘j’ sounds in sport.

Jays have long been a part of life and they are a part of our sporting world too. Jay Cutler for instance is the quarterback for the National Football League’s (NFL) Chicago Bears. He’s a regular passer, the kind you’ll see on any given Sunday, making completions and maybe a few interceptions too. There’s little malice in his bearing – Sure he’s a Bear, but think Teddy rather than Kodiak. The only mauling that this man claws out is via the scoreboard.

Yet for all the good that he delivers, this Jay is being wounded on a regular basis. It’s mostly physical – Jay Cutler does tend to spend some time on the sidelines. He’s not been helped by the offensive plays set up around him – Often pushed unfairly into a pass-friendly, high risk type-of play, Jay gets thrown to the wolves. Who growl and grump and do all sorts of other nasty hard ‘g’ words to gentle Jay. In Week 4 of the 2010 NFL season for instance he was sacked 9 times.

In the 1st half.

It’s hard to see that happening to a guy with a hard consonant out front of his name. Quarterbacks like Peyton, Tom, Ben and Drew.

And that repeated grounding was by a ‘g’ team, the Giants, who have a soft ‘j’ sound in their very name – You’d have expected that kind of targeted assault to be from a hard ‘g’ team like Green Bay. That pronounceable affinity obviously meant for nought though. Indeed if we’re talking sounds that go together then Cutler was born in Georgia, the State that is just right for Jays and Giants. He didn’t, it’s true, live there for long, instead doing most of his growing up in Indiana.

In a town called Santa Claus.

Yep, there’s a town named after the big man in a red suit. A jolly town just right for Jays.

Jay DeMerit by contrast grew up in a much tougher way. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, it was hard ‘g’ all the way for this gritty soccer defender. And the bias showed – DeMerit was not drafted by any of the Major League Soccer teams and had to travel to England in 2003 in the hope of having himself a career. So blighted was his name that he had to start at the then 9th-tier Southall, adding just £40 a week to go with the £1,800 he’d journeyed across the Atlantic with.

Fortunately this Jay was big on de merit and quickly rose up to pre-season games with 7th-tier Northwood, which he smartly parleyed into a 1-year contract with Championship (2nd-tier) side Watford. At the conclusion of that 1st contract with the Hornets, JDM had helped his club into the English Premier League (1st-tier) and all things were coming up just Jay.

And they still are – DeMerit has jumped back across the Atlantic and plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in an MLS that had once spurned this Jay – And he’s doing it in style, having been named a 2012 All-Star.

Perhaps this world is changing for the jood.

It surely is for Jon Jay, who plies his sporting trade with Major League Baseball’s (MLB) St. Louis Cardinals. J.Jay, whose multi-layered ‘j’ name could mark him out for egregious attention has instead been allowed to flourish and it’s thanks to some other Jays that he got his start too. He’d joined the Cards in 2011 as a back-up centre-fielder but then when the guy ahead of him in the roster, Colby Rasmus, was traded he got the starting gig.

Rasmus was wanted by Toronto.

The Blue Jays.

Whose generous act in clearing a path for a fellow Jay saw the latter feature in the 2011 World Series, where he played a prominent role in helping the Cardinals to win the big 1.

Which fits – In Hindu culture the name Jay is derived from the Sanskrit for ‘victory’.

So there we have it – Jays to the fore across the sporting world and that was just an abbreviated sample. I could have written some more about hockey’s Jay Bouwmeester, a defenceman with the St. Louis Blues, who holds the longest active iron man streak in the top-tier National Hockey League (NHL). Or I could have highlighted Wirral-born Jay Spearing, who has been involved with Liverpool FC since he was 7 and still is, 17 years later, albeit on loan to Bolton.

But here’s the thing – I shouldn’t have to highlight the Jays in our world. Their individual and collective actions should stand by themselves as equal to what the Garys, Grants, Gavins and Gilberts can achieve. And that is all that should count.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you are Jay or Gay. All that matters is that you’re not a tornado or a terrorist and that you can play.

Just Too Heaven Sent

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