Word of the Year: Oxford Picks GIF (US), Omnishambles (UK)
Oxford Dictionaries, one of the first out of the blocks in the Word of the Year event, announced its US and UK choices Monday night. The US Word of the Year is GIF (as a verb). The UK Word of the Year is omnishambles (a noun).
Although GIF, an image file format, has been around for decades now, the use of GIF as a verb meaning “to create simple animated images” and, often, to use them to illustrate a particular event or reactions to an event, is uniquely 2012. The word now has many forms (and can be pronounced with a hard or soft G); Oxford has chosen to retain the uppercase GIF but use the lowercase for verbal endings: GIFed, GIFing.
The writers of the British comedy show The Thick of It coined omnishambles, originally to refer to a thoroughly (omni- “all”) mismanaged (shambles “total disorder”) political scenario. Though still much at home on the political scene, omnishambles has demonstrated the flexibility and general appeal that allows a word to have staying power. As a bonus, it adds a touch of levity that might be welcomed when one is faced with a production, plan, event, campaign, etc., in such a state of disarray.
On the OxfordWords blog, you can find the US press release and reflections from OUP New York’s Katherine Connor Martin, the UK press release and OUP lexicographer and judge Fiona McPherson’s take, and information (and GIFs) on the ten runners up. You also won’t want to miss the Oxford University Press blog post in which editor Alice Northover GIFs her “completely bias perspective” on the Word of the Year process. And for those of you confounded by the choice of GIF, check out the additional post that Northover GIFed: "Six WOTY Confusables about GIF."
Image courtesy of saturns-stingray.