Pronunciation of sIFR

In the world of accessible text replacement for web apps, one technique reigns supreme: sIFR.  Using a combination of Flash and Javascript, sIFR combs your markup and looks for elements you specify, replacing them with small Flash movies, to allow you to use non-standard fonts in your app.  For examples, look no further than this blog ( note: no longer the case, I'm republishing in 2018 just so it's still out there). Post titles and the header on the home page use the technique to enable the use of Rockwell (a font that ships with MS Office 2003).

But I digress, you didn’t come here to learn about sIFR - there are better places to do such things. You came to take part in the heated debate about the correct pronunciation of the acronym. Some of my coworkers and I have nearly come to fisticuffs over the proper pronunciation, so why not join in on the fun?

Here’s the deal: I believe it is pronounced with a short “i”, a la “sift”.  Some of my coworkers believe it is pronounced with a long “i”, a la “site”.  Phonetically, they’re saying “cypher”. Obviously, I am correct.  My reasoning: the “I” in sIFR stands for Inman (soft “i”), as in scalable Inman Flash Replacement, because Shaun Inman initially developed the technology. Also, I believe the pronunciation of the first letter of each word in an acronym should be maintained, if it results in an easily spoken acronym. For example - NASA arguably rolls off the tongue a little more easily than nay-say.  You can see my point.  Their sole reason: “cypher” sounds cooler.  Shenanigans, I say.

So now it’s time to hopefully get a collective opinion on the matter.  What say you, fellow geeks?


  1. Michael Taylor

    short i, just like sift, you win

  2. I prefer the “cypher” pronunciation, as it a) sounds cooler and b) allows geeks to ridicule the uninitiated who spell it phonetically in email. Also, your pronunciation sounds too close to “Swiffer”. Lame.

  3. What about your debit card PIN … it should be pronounce “pine” by your definition (Personal Identification Number). But alas, it is not pronounced that way, and thus I will concede that we are both correct.

  4. To quote Mike Davidson, who expanded upon sIFR:

    …it is indeed pronounced “siffer”.”

    About as authoritative as it gets. Thanks for the link Tholking.

  5. I would argue that “siffer” is pronounced like “cypher” anyway.

    OK, after a bit more digging, apparently words that have “iff” in them: sniff, difference, bailiff, etc. all are pronounced the way you are claiming. However, since the acronym in question has been ingrained into my verbal db, I am not about to change it.

  6. I believe Shaun Inman was the originator of the sIFR acronym… Mike Davidson is entitled to his (wrong) opinion, but that does not make his preferred pronunciation the correct one.

  7. Chris: Actually, it’s a long story but Shaun was not the originator of sIFR… he was the originator of IFR (pronounced EYE EFF ARE). I was the originator of sIFR, and it is indeed pronounced “siffer”. In fact, I may modify the license today to specifically exclude anyone who pronounces it otherwise. Carry on…

  8. I’ve always said cypher. But what about “sa-feer”, like FLIR (”fleer”)?

  9. Those who disagree have just been owned by Mike Davidson himself.

  10. Fortunately, I don’t acknowledge any authority figures, and plan to continue pronouncing it “cypher”. Coolness (well, relative coolness in this case) and confusing the uninitiated always should take precedence over “facts”.

  11. You’ll find that if you talk to me about “cypher”, I’ll stare at you with a vague gaze. sWIFR would have been a good name as well, going with the whole Ajax / Comet craze. But alas, it didn’t happen.

    Another interesting note is that I always thought of sIFR as ’siffer’, without clearing this up with Mike. So yes, ’siffer’ it is!

  12. Sniffer? Sifter? Shifter? Snifter? Swifter?



    It’s the obvious choice.