Talking tech since 2003

In what may be the greatest comeback in outdated technological history, the GIF has been acknowledged as Oxford American Dictionary’s 2012 word of the year. GIF, pronounced with either a hard of soft G (I prefer the soft G so that it sounds like I’m talking about peanut butter) stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” and is actually a really old technology–having been around for over 27 years. It’s only recently that it has become relevant again.

In what may be the greatest resurrection of old technology, the GIF, or more specifically, the animated GIF, has been regaining popularity in recent years. We can probably thank social media sites like 4chan, Reddit, and Imgur for the comeback. Previously, the lossy image format was primarily seen as AIM buddy icons and on Geocities homepages.

In an interview with BetaBeat, Oxford explained the selection:

“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.”

GIF wasn’t the only techy term in consideration this year. We also had “Higgs boson”, “YOLO” (you only live once) and “MOOC” (massive open online course). I can feel a number of you cringing, but take solace in the fact that “YOLO” did not win.

What we should take away from this is an observation of how internet subcultures can shape and influence “real life” cultures. Terms like “YOLO”, “troll”, “TL;DR”, “TIL” and “AMA” are becoming more prevalent in every day speech and writing. Much like “LOL”, “BRB”, and “JK” dove into normal conversation in the early 2000’s, we’re seeing internet lingo once again form formal (I use that word extremely loosely) language.

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