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Gifable

Pronounced /ɡɪfəb(ə)l/Help with pronunciation

This word has been around for some time online but I’ve only recently noticed it in print.

It looks like a misspelling of giftable but it actually derives from the image format GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). Unlike other formats, GIFs can be animated and have long been used to create repetitive icons:

The Graphics Interchange Format, or gif, is, as you may know, a simple, looping animation a few seconds long, a digital flipbook operated by a tireless thumb. Invented 26 years ago, five years before the web gained its first photograph, gifs helped make gaudy text flash in different colours, crudely animating the earliest web pages. As hi-tech as Clip Art, they ought to have gone the same way, yet today the internet overflows with gifs that inform, advertise, sell, entertain, illuminate and anthropomorphise.

Independent on Sunday, 9 Jun. 2013.

A more sophisticated usage of the form is a brief extract a few seconds long from films or television programmes, which are said to be gifable if it’s possible to snatch a clip that encapsulates a memorable moment and turn it into a GIF. It still appears as GIF-able, though the hyphenless version is becoming common.

The jokes are great (well, at least for the past two years they have been), the dresses are our bread and butter, and the heartfelt speeches are tolerable, but we know why you really watch the Golden Globes, or any awards show for that matter: to scope out the GIFable moments.

TheJaneDough.com, 13 Jan. 2014.

People disagree about the pronunciation of GIF (its inventors said it should be said like jif, in conscious reference to the peanut butter brand Jiff, but it’s often said with a hard g), but gifable is always said with a hard g.

It’s the source of giffing out, a term invented by Kmart for an annoying advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2013 holiday season that included brief looped snatches of people going crazy over their purchases.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 1 Feb. 2014

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 1 February 2014.