The Oxford American Dictionary has named GIF as the 2012 Word of the Year.
GIF is actually an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, and it has actually been around since 1987. The Oxford Dictionary describes an animated GIF as “a primitive technology used to provide animations, particularly on web sites.” In the early days, a GIF would usually be a simple graphic, such as a spinning globe. In its recent resurgence, GIFs are more often seen as snippets of real events, giving them the form of a short video.
The Sideshow reports that GIF wasn’t the only word considered for the award as YOLO, the acronym meaning “You only live once” was also a runner up. Superstorm was another runner up.
“GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” Katherine Martin, head of the US dictionaries program at Oxford said. “The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”
Minnesota Public Radio listed several other words that were in the running, while also criticizing Oxford for failing to note that GIF is an acronym, not a word. Nevertheless, it has been named the 2012 Word of the Year.
Among the others considered were Eurogeddon, Super PAC, nomophobia (the anxiety of being without one’s mobile phone), and Higgs boson (the so-called God Particle).
The same organization also picked a Word of the Year for the United Kingdom. For the folks on the other side of the Atlantic, the word chosen was omnishambles. Omnishambles is defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”
What is your pick for Word of the Year?