GIF beats YOLO to become Oxford 2012 Word of the Year

A 1980s digital image format gets recognized in 2012

GIF narrowly beat out fellow acronym YOLO in a tight race to become the Oxford American Dictionaries’ 2012 Word of the Year.

While GIF may be the 2012 winner, it isn’t a new word at all. GIF, which Oxford says can be pronounced with a hard or soft G, stands for Graphics Interchange Format and was introduced as a digital image format in 1987, well before most people had ever logged onto the Internet.

But the humble GIF has gained significance in 2012, as the tiny and often humourous animations — usually taken from pop culture — are circulated on social media, including on the blog Tumblr.

For example, here’s one from popular reality television show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:



GIFs were also widely circulated during the U.S. 2012 presidential race.

As for runner up YOLO, it comes from Drake song “The Motto” and stands for you only live once.

Not only has YOLO become a motto for Drake, it has also inspired various acts of defiance and risk taking, including this famous Toronto Blue Jays streaking event when then 17-year-old Yannis Carayannopoulos stripped down to his Speedo and wrote YOLO on his chest, before taking a run around the ball diamond.

On the British side of the Oxford publication, the 2012 British word of the year is omnishambles, defined “as a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”

There are no rap stars or humourous images involved with the British word. Rather, it can be used to refer to blunders made by the U.K. government, the general state of the EU economy or mismanagement around the 2012 London Olympic.

A notable offshoot of omnishambles is “Romneyshambles,” used to describe former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s blunder-filled visit to London ahead of the 2012 Games.

Also in the running for the British word of the year was mobot, which refers to the victory dance (basically, the “M” from the Village People’s “YMCA”) performed by British runner Mo Farah upon his Olympic victory.

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