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GIF sneaks up



"It's been delighting people around the world for 25 years but now formally holds an honored place in the cultural lexicon: 'GIF' has been chosen as word of the year by the Oxford American Dictionary. 'GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,' said Katherine Morris, head of the U.S. dictionaries program at Oxford. '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 is, in fact, an abbreviation of three separate words: Graphics Interchange Format. It was first released by CompuServe in 1987 but has experienced a dramatic cultural resurgence in recent years, most commonly used to make humorous commentary on topics ranging from sports to the 2012 presidential election."

It may have been delighting others for 25 years, but I never heard of it until I saw this item on Yahoo news a few days ago. The explanation was little help. All right, it's a picture format on the web, but does it have another definition in general usage? How is it used as a verb? "I'll GIF you, sucker"? A young colleague who knows computer jargon much better than I says that GIF has come into widespread usage only in the last couple of years. He gave this example: "Will you GIF that for me?"

I'm also told that GIF is pronounced to rhyme with the peanut butter. I like the peanut butter better.  

The sinking of the Titanic was far too disastrous:

"LONDON — Britain's high court on Thursday blocked a U.S. government bid to extradite a sex criminal to Minnesota, saying the state's restrictive treatment program for sex offenders was far too draconian."

If it were just a smidgen draconian, would it be OK? I don't think so. Draconian by itself doesn't mean simply "harsh," it means "very harsh." It doesn't go well with intensifiers. I suppose you could argue that "far too draconian" means "very, very, very harsh," but that sounds like splitting hairs. Although we usually see draconian in the lower case these days, some people still capitalize it. It comes from the name "Draco." He was a late 7th-century Athenian statesman noted for the severity of his code of laws.

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