'GIF' beats out 'YOLO' and 'superstorm' to become Word of the Year

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Sorry, “Super PAC.” Your loss, “Eurogeddon.” The eggheads at Oxford American Dictionaries have spoken — and they’ve decreed that 2012′s Word of the Year is, officially, GIF, a verb meaning “to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event).”

GIFs weren’t invented this year, but 2012 was a pretty big year for animated photos — as the dictionary’s blog notes, huge events like the London Olympics and the American presidential election gave Internet users countless opportunities to show off their GIFing skills. Several GIF-focused Tumblrs such as whatshouldwecallme also blew up this year, bringing GIFS to a wider audience than ever.

Really, though, GIF may have been anointed because its competitors were so weak. Here are a few of the other words Oxford American Dictionary considered:

  • Eurogeddon: the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability [from euro + (arma)geddon]
  • Super PAC: a type of independent political action committee that may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates
  • Superstorm: an unusually large and destructive storm
  • Nomophobia: anxiety caused by being without one’s mobile phone [from no + mo(bile) + phobia]
  • Higgs boson: a subatomic particle whose existence is predicted by the theory that unified the weak and electromagnetic interactions
  • YOLO: you only live once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior
  • MOOC: massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the internet

Erm… yeah. Suddenly, GIF doesn’t seem so puzzling, does it?

Oh, and in case you were wondering: “GIF may be pronounced with either a soft g (as in giant) or a hard g (as in graphic),” according to Oxford lexicographer Katherine Martin. Her explanation: “The programmers who developed the format preferred a pronunciation with a soft g (in homage to the commercial tagline of the peanut butter brand Jiff [sic], they supposedly quipped “choosy developers choose GIF”). However, the pronunciation with a hard g is now very widespread and readily understood.” Back in a jiff, I have to make a GIF about this.

Read more:
‘F-bomb’ gets Merriam-Webster stamp of approval
Oxford English Dictionary adds OMG, LOL, and BFF to its pages. WTF?
Sarah Palin, wordsmith: ‘Refudiate’ named Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year

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