GIF Beats Out YOLO to Become the Oxford American Dictionary’s 2012 Word of the Year

Was YOLO robbed?

(Photo: Tumblr)

2012, it seems, is the year the GIF finally receives the recognition it deserves. Long had the short animated images languished on 4chan and Reddit before transitioning over to Tumblr and BuzzFeed. 2012 was the year of the reaction GIF blog, where everyone from law students to editors filled Tumblrs with GIFs meant to capture (and laugh at) the human condition. Then came an avant-garde form of election coverage, where stables of live-GIFers fought with Photoshop to bring their devoted audiences the funniest, most compelling GIFs of the presidential candidates.

Now, the GIF has received the ultimate sign of zeitgeisty approval: “GIF” (the verb) is officially the Oxford American Dictionaries’ 2012 word of the year.

GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” Katherine Martin, head of the US dictionaries program at Oxford said in a statement. “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.”

The competition for 2012’s word of the year was understandably fierce. GIF beat out some worthy contenders in order to win the title:

1.       Eurogeddon: the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability [from euro + (arma)geddon]

2.       Super PAC: a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates

3.       Superstorm: an unusually large and destructive storm

4.       Nomophobia: anxiety caused by being without one’s mobile phone

[from no and mo(bile) + phobia]

5.       Higgs boson: a subatomic particle whose existence is predicted by the theory that unified the weak and electromagnetic interactions

6.       YOLO: you only live once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior

7.       MOOC: massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the internet

There will undoubtedly be some backlash from angry Drake fans who feel “YOLO” was robbed, but we defer to Mama June for the response to that:

(Photo: RealityTVGIFs)


In a post published to Oxford Dictionaries’ blog, the publisher makes a shocking decision on the widely-debated topic of how to pronounce GIF. Oxford proclaims that both pronunciations of GIF–with a hard or soft G–are considered acceptable:

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 gis now very widespread and readily understood. Whichever pronunciation you use, it should of course be the same for both the noun and the verb.

Now what will Tumblr users argue about?

Correction: The headline has been updated; it originally read “Oxford English Dictionary” instead of Oxford American Dictionaries.
GIF Beats Out YOLO to Become the Oxford American Dictionary’s 2012 Word of the Year