Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

But would people have still lined up for an 8 "jigabyte" iPhone?

I caught a bit of one of the Back to the Future movies the other day - just long enough to hear Michael J. Fox whining about needing to generate 1.2 "jigawatts" of electricity.  Hearing him say that line while watching his words being spelled out in the closed captioning, something hit me.  Shouldn't he have said "giga" watts (hard G) not "jigawatts?"  (Or, I suppose, shouldn't we all be walking around with 120 "jig" hard drives in our PC?)

Curious, I pulled our old school hardcover Random House College Dictionary off the bookshelf (1984 edition - conveniently the year before Back to the Future was released). Sure enough, the only pronunciation they have for gigawatt is "jigawatt". The same goes for giga ("jiga") hertz and giga ("jiga") meter.  Not surprising, they didn't have an entry for gigabyte (although they did at least have byte, kilobyte and megabyte defined.)

Coming back into modern times, I was surprised to see that the Miriam-Webster online dictionary actually has the "jigabyte" pronunciation as the first entry, although it does list both.  (Other online dictionaries either just have the hard G pronunciation or list it first if they include both.)

So the question is:  When (and why) did the standard pronunciation for gigabyte morph into the hard G?  And out of curiosity, are there any readers out there working in the field who could confirm how gigawatt is commonly pronounced nowadays - is it still referred to as a "jigawatt?"