Oxford Dictionary Words of the Year: 'GIF' and 'Omnishambles'



"GIF" was chosen by Oxford American College Dictionary as its word of 2012, while its British cousin chose "omnishambles."

“GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. dictionaries program at Oxford, said in a statement. “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.”

A compressed file format used in computer animation, GIF beat out words like Eurogeddon (the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone), super PAC, superstorm, Higgs boson, and YOLO (You Only Live Once).

Taking the Brit prize was omnishambles, defined as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, and is characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations." It was coined by the satirical UK television show The Thick Of It, and was popularly spun off into "Romneyshambles," a word used widely by the British to describe Mitt Romney’s doubts that London had what it took to host a successful Olympic Games.

"It was a word everyone liked, which seemed to sum up so many of the events over the last 366 days in a beautiful way," said Fiona McPherson, the senior content editor for Oxford Dictionaries. "It’s funny, it’s quirky, and it has broken free of its fictional political beginnings, firstly by spilling over into real politics, and then into other contexts."