The steady decline of the English language continues. The latest blow comes from the Oxford Dictionary, which has named GIF its “USA Word of the Year.” Yep, that GIF—except not exactly. GIF is already in the Oxford Dictionary as a noun. This time, it’s being recognized as a verb. Apparently, creating a GIF of a scene or an event is referred to as GIFing. To GIF? Seriously?
Despite my disdain for using GIF as a verb, I’ve gotta give it to the Graphics Interchange Format for staying relevant since its introduction in 1987. For better or worse, the popularity of the format has surged in recent years as a means to spread Internet memes. Animated GIFs seem to be everywhere now.
Mercifully, GIFing may not make its way into the actual Oxford Dictionary. The Word of the Year is defined as “a word that has attracted interest and that embodies in some way the ethos of the year.” Other candidates for 2012 included Super PAC, superstorm, and Eurogeddon. Maybe GIFing isn’t so bad after all.
The most controversial aspect of this story may be Oxford’s decree that both pronunciations of GIF are acceptable. I’ve always used a soft g, which matches my own name and is what the format’s creators preferred; the CompuServe employees responsible for the format supposedly said “Choosy developers choose GIF,” a reference to Jif-brand peanut butter. The hard-g pronunciation seems to be more popular these days, but that doesn’t make it right.