The Word of the Year is a Win for the Internet

Posted by Lauren Hall-Stigerts on January 30, 2013 in Editorial -- Share:

When I was a kid, we didn’t have mobile phones to entertain us. Our friends had to visit our house to play a cooperative video game together. And to see the latest movie VHS release, we had to leave the house to rent a movie from the store.

But you know what entertained me then and continues to entertain me today? The animated GIF. Yes, those looped images sprinkled around the Internet. The ones that you hypnotically watch repeat silently in three-second cycles until someone taps on your shoulder and you awkwardly snap out of it to explain why you’re watching a silent image of a cat chasing a laser over and over again. (If you don’t see the kitty awkwardly scrambling after the red dot, give it a minute to load.) 

Laser Cat(source)

Not that that’s happened to ME, of course. *ahem*

The GIF’s humble beginnings

Rewind to 1995 when, with a website building wizard tool and one late night, anyone could create their own ugly website. What made my personal site fun were all of the animated GIFs. Ah, those were the days.

The GIF, or “graphics interchange format”, has been around since 1987, but only in the last year has it hit a level of online pop-culture ubiquity. Gone are the days when animated GIFs were limited to rainbow explosions and blinking kittens (like the ones I’d bling out my website with). They have worked their way into our presidential elections, our movies, and the most epic moments of the 2012 Olympics. They help us see art a little differently. They pick us up when we’re feeling a little down. And we just can’t get enough of watching animals do silly things.

Looping animation more powerful than politics and hurricanes?

So now you can understand why my inner 12-year-old was particularly excited by the news that The Oxford Dictionary selected GIF as the Word of the Year (2012). I mean, it’s an event that summarizes the year’s cultural focus in one word. One word that depicts our hopes, fears, and interests. How powerful is that?

GIF beat out some of the year’s most noteworthy words: superstorm, an unusually destructive storm such as Hurricane Sandy in the United States. YOLO is an acronym that stands for “you only live once,” popularized by teens and young adults. (In fact, it’s come and gone in popularity. The kids are reportedly sick of hearing it.) GIF even vanquished Super PAC, or a huge political action committee that can raise an unlimited amount of funds to influence an election.

Sorry, you still can’t use GIF in your word games

Some specifics for you word nerds: OK yeah so it’s an acronym – which is leaving some Word of the Year diehards a bit upset. Also, GIF here is considered a verb, meaning “to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event).” (source) Remember how the presidential debates were “live GIFfed”?

But acronym or not, this is a fun “word”. And I, for one, would like to celebrate how the GIF has impacted our lives as Internet denizens by sharing some of this year’s best GIFs. Hopefully they’ll cheer you up if you’re feeling down that, no, you still can’t use “GIF” in your word game since it’s an acronym. (You’re not alone – I’m pouting a little, too.)

Without further ado -

Work it, you little toddler in a tiara!

Toddlers and Tiaras(source)

Jim Lehrer, a presidential debate moderator, takes a break to rock out.

Jim Lehrer (source)

McKayla Maroney’s amazing Olympic stick is immortalized in 7 seconds of sheer looping awesomeness

McKayla Maroney(source)

The adorable squishy kitty Pusheen. (Don’t worry, Pusheen – Hostess has since been saved!)

Pusheen Hostess(source)

Speaking of squishy… I dare you to not say “Awweeeee!” to this hug.

Racoon Hug(source)

… and this cat needs a hug.

Catfalling(source)

Some GIFs are gorgeous – a style of animation called Cinemagraph subtly gives portraits life.

Girl Desk(source)

You’re doing it wrong, chameleon!

Chameleon Climb(source)

You’re doing it right, kitty!

Great Cat Escape(source)

GIF’s can be the perfect visual expression of how you feel. This one is for “when you realize your friends are taking a group photo without you.”

Picture Without You(source)

Art in motion. This is titled “One Year in One Second”.

Seasons(source)

Saving the best for last (I’m a ridiculous pug fan) – adorable pugs hover-floating up the stairs.

Pug Jumping Fawn(source)

Pug Jumping Black(source)

What are some of your favorite animated GIFs?

Written by

Lauren is a lifelong gaming fan. She expresses her love of strong female pop-culture characters by costuming at conventions. Internet marketing consulting, playing the clarinet and sax, practicing martial arts, and geeking out over tea keeps her busy the rest of the time. Find more of her shenanigans on Twitter @hallstigerts and Google+!

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