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:
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.