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GIF wins Oxford's 'Word of the Year'

Oxford American Dictionaries elects the verb form of GIF as the word of the year. JPG and PNG declined to comment.

Christopher MacManus
Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.
Christopher MacManus
2 min read
A GIF of GIF. challenger23.tumblr.com

To GIF or not to GIF. That is the question for many Internet denizens these days, especially if they frequent Tumblr or Reddit. At the moment, it's the easiest way to share a quick animation, thanks in part to its compatibility with nearly every Internet browser ever made.

As the GIF (graphic interchange format) turns 25 this year, what better way to celebrate -- aside from GIFing it -- than Oxford American Dictionaries announcing that the acronym has been named 2012's "Word of the Year.

"GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun," Katherine Martin, head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford Press, said of the image format. "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."

As an aside to the award, an Oxford press release also gave a lesson in how to pronounce GIF by saying it's appropriate to pronounce it with "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')."

Last year, Oxford chose as Word of the Year "squeezed middle," a term that defines "those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it," said the publisher.

Other finalists for this year's award include Eurogeddon, Super PAC, Superstorm, Nomophobia, Higgs boson, YOLO ("you only live once," though some believers in reincarnation might disagree), and MOOC (massive open online course).