"GIF" = "animated GIF"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Aug 6 15:48:10 UTC 2012

On Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 12:10 AM, Neal Whitman wrote:
> My nearly 14y.o. son was showing me an internet video from one of his
> favorite sites these days, Memebase. The video was repetitive, and I kept
> waiting for the punch line to come. My son said a couple of times, "It's a
> GIF," which didn't register on me at all as I kept on watching the video.
> Then he explained that it just kept repeating. In days since, he has
> referred to other GIFs, and has shaken his head in amusement when I
> clarify,
> "You mean an animated GIF?" After all, what other kind of GIF could he
> possibly be talking about? He doesn't have my memories of reading Usenet
> postings in the pre-Windows era in 1991, with posters being asked to
> "upload
> a GIF," meaning just a picture.
> Is this just a bit of Relevance-based semantic narrowing in my son's peer
> group, or have others noticed a shift in the meaning of "GIF"?

Here's a fresh example from Twitter:

"The NYTimes has a GIF on their homepage http://www.nytimes.com/  I'm
assuming this is @lexinyt's doing?"

The (animated) GIF in question linked to Christoph Niemann's Abstract Sunday:



Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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