It’s preposterous, of course, to allow one organization to determine the “word of the year,” but the Oxford American Dictionaries people were first to the marketing gimmick finish line and they have selected “GIF” as the word of the year.
The dictionary people might want to look up the word “acronym,” because GIF isn’t a word per se at all. It stands for Graphics/Graphic Interchange Format.
The Oxford people go so far as to celebrate the fact an otherwise fine noun has been “verbed.”
“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.”
To keep pace? To keep pace with what? This?
When the Oxford staff press released me on this, they also indicated the other words that were in the running:
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
A different word was named as the UK word of the year by the same organization: omnishambles.
Last year’s word of the year was “squeezed middle,” as the judges showed equal disdain for the rules of language by naming two words as the word (singular) of the year.