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GIF is the 2012 Word of the Year GIF is the 2012 Word of the Year

GIF is the 2012 Word of the Year

by Yasha Wallin
November 15, 2012

In America, "GIF" has been named word of the year by the Oxford University Press. Though the word is officially 25-years-old this year, it has never seemed more relevant. In 2012 alone we saw everything from Gangnam style to the Olympics to the election played out in the form of GIFs. Tumblr and the Guardian US went so far as to live-GIF the presidential debates, meaning now GIF is used not only as a noun, but also a verb. According to Oxford Dictionary's blog, the word is defined as follows: "GIF verb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the debate."

They go on to elaborate:

GIF is an acronym from graphic interchange format, coined as a noun in 1987. The recent development of verbal GIF is an example of a linguistic process called conversion, or zero-formation. Verbs are often created from nouns in this way in English, ranging from venerable words such as to blanket and to fork to other recent technology neologisms like to Google and to Photoshop.

Just how does one pronounce this trending acronym? Oxford explains:

GIF may be pronounced with either a soft g (as in giant) or a hard g (as in graphic). 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, they supposedly quipped “choosy developers choose GIF”). However, the pronunciation with a hard g is now very widespread and readily understood. Whichever pronunciation you use, it should of course be the same for both the noun and the verb.

Given our affinity for animated memes, we think GIF was a solid choice as word of the year. But it had fierce competition to make it as a finalist, with a few other popular items floating around that also embodied what the world looked like in 2012. Super PAC, superstore, and MOOS (massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the Internet) were among those that were shortlisted.

What other words do you think best represent this year?


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