The humble GIF has had a big year: it turned 25 in June, and was the preferred file format during the recent presidential debates. Now, a new honor has been bestowed upon it — Oxford University Press has dubbed GIF the word of the year in the US, beating out YOLO, second-screening, and a number of words that made the short list. Over the in UK, however, the word of the year was "omnishambles," a term coined by writers of the British comedy show The Thick of It — it's defined as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations."
In a statement to BetaBeat, Oxford's head of the US dictionaries program Katherine Martin said that "GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun," and also noted that the GIF is now "a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace." It's high praise for a file format, but we'd be hard-pressed to disagree. That said, this doesn't guarantee the GIF a lasting place in English language history — a word of the year is not necessarily a shoe-in to be promoted to the pages of the OED.
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