GIF beats YOLO as word of the year

AMAZEBALLS. YOLO. Gangnam. All such ''worthy contenders'', all words that have purists pulling their hair out.

But none could top ''to gif'' as 2012's word of the year, as declared by the Oxford American Dictionary.

Although some argue the boffins are ''totes [totally] ancient'' because GIFs - animated computer picture files - have been around for, like, ages, [25 years, to be exact] Oxford's lexicographers said that like many relics of the 1980s, GIFs have never been trendier.

''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,'' said judging lexicographer panel member Katherine Martin.

The files can be used to create looping animations, and reached a landmark last month when British newspaper The Guardian joined blog site Tumblr to ''live-GIF'' the US presidential debates.

GIF stands for graphic interchange format - and can be pronounced with a soft or hard ''g'' sound, Oxford has decreed.

Other contenders for the US title were ''superstorm'' and ''nomophobia'' [being away from the mobile phone].

The winner of the UK Oxford Dictionary's title was ''omnishambles'', a word popularised from British TV comedy The Thick of It, and has a similar meaning to existing words like snafu.

Omnishambles is defined as ''a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, and is characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations''.

It spawned takeoffs such as ''Romneyshambles'', which Brits used to described US presidential candidate Mitt Romney's doubts that London could host a successful Olympiad.

Title judge Fiona McPherson said omnishambles was ''funny and quirky''.

''It has broken free of its fictional political beginnings, firstly by spilling over into real politics, and then into other contexts,'' she said.

''If influence is any indication of staying power, it has already staked its claim by being linguistically productive in its own right.''

Omnishambles defeated ''Eurogeddon'', referring to the European financial woes, and ''grexit'' [a mash of Greek and exit, referring to the scenario of Greece dropping the Euro as its currency] to win.

The lexicographers assure, though, that just because a word wins the title, it doesn't guarantee inclusion in the dictionary.

Last year's winner was ''squeezed middle'', which meant ''the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes''. It won both countries' awards.

This story GIF beats YOLO as word of the year first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.