GIF is word of the year

"GIF has been named the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year," reports the NY Daily News, in an article that Rich Kyanka points out is illustrated by JPGs of popular GIFs.

Here I present you with a splendid actual GIF from DVDP; put on the "apocalyptic rave" music that the BBC plays in the background of news broadcasts to make you anxious, then stare at it until 2013.


  1. Seriously that music is behind newscasts?

    I don’t get my news that way and will now have even more sympathy for those that do.

    Do they at least have something lighter for those bits where a duck crossing the street with ducklings in tow is featured, or when interviewing kids at a playground etc? Because i picture the duck w/ducklings in the street with that music behind it and you know they gonna die, poor duckies

    hmmm starts kinda Skinny Puppy, then gets…a bit older, then back to the late 80’s, and then I stopped listening

    1.  I find it fairly restful, actually. Especially compared to the blarting fanfares employed by CNN and so on.

      Musically, seems to reference the timing beeps that allowed you to set your watch on the hour during BBC World Service radio broadcasts.

  2. Why??? The GIF has been around for decades. They might have well named the COMMODORE PET as the computer of the year.

    1. People have rediscovered the animated GIF as an antidote to the YouTube video. In other words, it’s retro hip.

      1. Also, “Funniest Home Videos” and “Meanwhile In Russia” aside, in the last year the GIF came of age as a really cool artistic expression, original or remixed artwork.  Such as this one.

        Oh, who am I kidding but myself, it’s because of Nyan Cat.

  3. I wonder what the pronunciation guide will be on it.  “Jiff” or “guf”

    The people who made the acronym prefer the former, but the latter is much more widespread. 

    Also, IMHO, the latter makes more sense, because the G stands for Graphics, not Jiraffics. 

      1. Arrgh – “Jif” used to advertise that it had half the added sugars of other peanut butters.  Because making peanut butter out of just peanuts and salt is obviously not possible…

    1. The original format specification says it’s pronounced “JIF”.  The people who created the file format said so before it ever left the building.  IMO that makes it the correct pronunciation.

    1.  That’s the word of the year for the Oxford ENGLISH Dictionary.  Apparently, “GIF” is the word of the year for the Oxford AMERICAN Dictionary. 

      1.  That’s just for the UK. For the US, it’s gif. For the record, I voted for “superstorm”.

        Also, thank you for not saying “The OED named gif the word of the year”. The OED is just one of the dictionaries produced by Oxford University Press. :-)

  4. GIF doesn’t mean animated-GIF however since nobody sensible would use a a large static GIF rather than a JPEG it has come to mean animated-GIF particularly among those who don’t realize that tiny static GIFs still make sense.

    1. There are few places where a tiny static gif makes more sense than a tiny static png. Or at least where there is enough advantage to make the limitations of gifs make any sense.

      1. There is little absolute difference between icon size or smaller GIFs or PNGs other than that PNGs can’t animate.

        If you want to save size (and transmission time) with small images then one can use a “sprite sheet”/”sprite table”/”tile set” hack where a bunch of images are combined into one and then use something like CSS to pick out sub-images. For this large image PNG generally works best though JPG or animated GIF could be used. This particular BoingBoing page uses around 9 sprite tables, the largest being:

        I personally would like to see structured images become less of a hack that involves separate outside knowledge of where the sub-images are located – say a standard that lets one externally refer to “up” of “buttons.strim” and have that structured image know the size and location of the sub-images named “up” . Such a standard should be able to handle both sprite tables and animated-GIF like things. while allowing an animation to be externally manipulated – e.g. changing speed, stopping, playing backwards,isolating sub-animations, etc..

        The APNG (animated PNG) standard works in firefox (see examples on that page) but it doesn’t seem to provide an interface for external control much less a simple usage as a sprite table, which is why I think a better standard is needed. Animated-GIFs can contain a lot of internal structure that allows small portions of a total mostly static image to be animated. This is much different than converting a total animation into a video file.

    2. A large static GIF can have a much smaller file size than plenty of JPGs. It all depends. But most times I’d probably use PNG…

      But I see your point. Actions like Tumblr adding an overlay to animated GIFs on the phone app that just says “GIF” and means “click this to animate” are not helpful. Almost certainly the majority of the images I downloaded to make the rest of the interface pretty were GIFs as well.

      1. Meanwhile, often I crop and/or scale down a picture and end up saving it at twice the data size and 90% quality, a smaller, blurrier and heavier JPG.  How does that happen?

        Am I asking for advice?  I don’t know.  Am I howling at the moon?  Definitely.

  5. Personally, I regard the resurgence of gifs as a symptom of an enormous systemic failure. Basically in 2012 if you want to post a short video clip there is no better way to do it. The collective browser/OS/user/corporate fights over video formats means that it’s inconceivable to just tack a tiny h264 clip onto a post. Giant multi-MB gifs however are everywhere.

    With the exception of deliberately artsy uses (which do have their place) the gif should be dead. Long replaced by better formats. That should not be viewed as an insult towards the gif, but rather an insult towards our current screwed up system.

    1. One thing I like about GIF files:  No audio.  Also, I don’t have a load a big decoder to see a few seconds of Picard giggling or something.

      Where I see the big failure is on the PNG committee, who have never managed to make APNG or MNG anywhere near as common as GIF.  It should have been a plug-in replacement in browsers and authoring apps, but I’ve had the impression that both formats were over-engineered and difficult to integrate as a result.  Also, libpng could have been smarter about trying to encode files efficiently instead of falling back to full 24 bit colorspaces with alpha channels that gave PNG files a reputation for being huge. 

        1. While technically true, none of the players (browsers) on the market support any of that stuff I’m pretty sure.  It may be in the standard, but in practice the most you can do is animate some 8-bit frames. 

          There are a bunch of GIF hacks out there (like getting truecolor images by loading in small sections of the image as tiles with 0 delay set between them) that are cool but don’t work in browsers and thus aren’t used.

  6. This article seems to make a great deal about how the gif format was created in the 80s… almost as if they’re trying to tie its popularity into 80s nostalgia.

  7. It isn’t even a word, it is an acronym.

    And technically speaking it is copyrighted.

    “The Graphics Interchange Format(c) is the Copyright property of CompuServe Incorporated. GIF(sm) is a Service Mark property of CompuServe Incorporated.” (from the GIF89a Specification)

      1. Thank you James. I din’t find anything so you win this prize. Thanks for looking and updating us.

  8. “GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” she said.

    Today, GIFing is often used to make comical reaction shots featuring celebrities or sports figures.”

    Uh, has anyone here ever heard someone use GIF as a verb? This is new to me.

    1. It’s a mass-media-perpetuated-misconception that all Gurries participate in Giffing.

      Some of us who self-identify as a Gurry do not participate in all “so-called” parts of the Gurry-lifestyle.

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