THE HUMBLE WORD "GIF" is enjoying some newfound celebrity since it has been named as the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year for America.
You know GIFs, they are the short video or graphics clips that you stumble upon on the internet. They might portray a cat leaping or a monkey scratching. They are everywhere, at least on some websites. They are 25 years old, but according to the Oxford lexicographers, this is their year.
"The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier," said Katherine Martin, head of the US Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press USA.
"GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. 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."
GIF highlights of the year include the release of the Stereogranimator, a tool from the New York public library that makes it easy to turn old footage into a GIF, and the launch of Tumblr, which is to GIFs what galleries are to art.
Other words that were considered great by the Oxford University Press include Nomophobia, which is anxiety caused by being without one's mobile phone, and MOOC, which to anyone other than Martin Scorsese fans is a massive open online course.
And oh, by the way, the Oxford University Press word of the year 2012 for the UK is "omnishambles". µ