Imgur is pronounced “image-er/im-ij-er.” The name comes from “ur” and the extension “img” – your image!
But it’s not an intuitive pronunciation. When I first encountered the site I called it “im-gur” or “im-grr”. Because the g is followed by a u, it didn’t even occur to me that it might be a soft /dʒ/ sound. Most of the people I’ve spoken to about it agree, or they avoid saying it altogether.
All Things Linguistics followed up on my post and also noted the hard-g variation, which in IPA would be /ˈɪmgɚ/, /ˈɪmɡɝ/, /ˈɪmgər/, /ˈɪmgɛr/, etc. Curious, I asked on Twitter what people were inclined to say, and got many interesting replies. I’ve selected a few below, or you can read them all on Storify.
Several people were surprised, as I was, upon finding out how it’s supposed to be said. Many were unhappy with the mismatch between spelling and intended pronunciation, saying it should be spelled imager or similar. But the more intuitively pronounced names may have been unavailable, or undesirable for whatever reason.
I still say “im-grr” sometimes, because I like how it sounds. But I was content to switch once I learned the official preference. Not because it was official – I’ll never pronounce Nutella “new-tell-uh”, to use another odd example – but because it made a kind of sense I could get behind. Just not the phonotactic kind.
Hard vs. soft g is a perennial issue; I’ve already written about the great gif debate, twice. But with gif (and doge) there are sound arguments for various pronunciations. Imgur, with its obscure-bordering-on-cryptic justification, is more perverse: a weird beast, like its mascot the Imguraffe (a pun that only works with /dʒ/).
How to pronounce Imgur is a recurring subject on the site itself: even among “Imgurians” usage is mixed, though “im-grr” may predominate. For some it depends on who they’re talking to. Several Reddit users in this thread call it “image U R”, presumably because img = image. Others use a soft g but no schwa before it: “im-jer”.*
I don’t know if anyone has collected data on this, so I’ve made a poll. You can select more than one option if applicable. Vote and share at will, as the more votes it receives, the more reliable it becomes. In theory, anyway.
This isn’t the only instance of hard vs. soft g causing confusion in brand names: Nancy Friedman wrote about a firm called Virgance – with a soft g.
* See BuzzFeed for an overview of the connection between Imgur and Reddit.