The word of the year for 2012, according to Oxford University Press, is “GIF.” Go figure.
A 20-some-year-old word from technology, it stands for “graphics interchange format,” and most designers will tell you that GIF pictures have long since been eclipsed by JPGs as the medium of choice.
But according to the Associated Press, GIF was the word this year because it made the transition from noun to verb.
“To GIF” means to create an image or video, then post it on the Internet. All kinds of GIFs are online, from funnies about the election to pricelessly cute kittens to stuff from the Olympics.
The top word in the United Kingdom, according to the OUP, was “omnishambles,” a term describing a complete and total series of blunders, such as the state of the British media or its gaffe-prone government. At least they’re not GIF-prone. Yet.
The selection of GIF as the word of the year already has prompted some controversy. Katy Waldman, who writes for Browbeat, a “culture blog” at Slate.com, sniffed that it’s not even a word; it’s an acronym. And it’s so last century, Waldman noted, despite its 2012 morph into a verb, and no one much knows how to pronounce it.
For the record, don’t use a hard “G.” The proper pronunciation of “GIF” is “jif,” not unlike a certain brand of peanut butter.
Waldman observed that 2012 produced any number of possibilities overlooked by the OUP: malarkey, double down, fiscal cliff and Obamacare, among others.
The Brits apparently got it right about their own word of the year. As Ross Hart commented below, “The British have done it again. ‘Omnishambles’ is a lot more polite than that “cluster” phrase that’s so common . ..” Indeed.
Waldman’s suggestions notwithstanding, the Oxford Press dons said the runners up in the U.S. include “superstorm,” a weather term applied to Hurricane Sandy when the storm somehow no longer was a hurricane, and “YOLO,” a carefree social-media acronym for “you only live once,” as opposed to a certain James Bond movie from about 1967.