I know, I know, today isn’t Sunday. Life tends to get in the way at times. Moving along…
What have I been thinking about this week? Apart from a sci-fi epic inspired by Warhammer 40k, this video
and gang killings in Brazil, as well as my overt tendency to put ‘well’ at the front of all my sentences, I’ve been pondering the nature of GIFs. Or more specifically, communication over the Internet beyond mere text.
The Oxford American Dictionary has given the 2012 Word of the Year to GIF, putting it above other such notable entries as ‘YOLO’ (thank Christ) and ‘amazeballs’ (really?). While I have personally never used GIF as a verb, a GIF can simulate a verb. Or a noun, adverb, adjective, or collection of these. On the Internet a GIF becomes a descriptor of feelings and emotions, a metaphor when words aren’t enough. It is the perfect response to the endless trolls and trite that bombards us while browsing, so long as you manage to find that precise loop.
This brings up the question of the legitimacy of grammar rules. In written communication, we learn the rules to better express ourselves. But what happens when the best way to express ourselves does not involve well-placed punctuation? Joyce and McCarthy both went against traditional modes of writing, and had they stuck to the rules undoubtedly would never have achieved such striking work. Similarly, the nature of the Internet allows for the breaking of normative language in order to be better understood. Tumblr is a fantastic example, with many blogs using GIFs, images, and memes to put forward an agenda, often very convincingly. My only gripe with some of the uses of GIFs is when text is used like subtitles. A truly excellent picture response should not need a textual layer of any kind. Here are a few examples of pictorial articulation:
Fact: when making a post on Facebook or a forum I rarely write with capitals, full stops, or apostrophes, and sometimes even manage to abandon coherence. At times I feel this affects my message, but on the Web we have become accustomed to simplicity. We don’t always have time to read let alone write a long, thought-out reply. Sometimes a picture, GIF, or video says more than anything we could ever come up with. For a time I had a bank of Youtube clips that I would post on Facebook in reply to statuses. Apparently this was annoying so I gave up, but you can’t deny that a suitable
is a much more humorous response than explaining in detail why an acquaintance’s love of One Direction is lame. As another example, a forum I frequent has built up a veritable stock of Simpsons reply smilies. Here are a few with possible situations attached.
I Can’t Believe You Posted That, And Am Trying To Decipher It.
You Are Incorrect, But I Will Smugly Withhold Why While You Figure It Out.
I’m Too Cool To Give A Damn, You Can Just Deal With It
And so on and so forth. Communication has transcended text, and on the Internet we no longer need the rules of grammar or punctuation. We don’t even need words. There’s no time. For every stupid OP (opening post for forum noobs) or mundane status there’s a GIF in waiting. This is why it is rightly the Word of the Year—because it represents how far language has evolved (or, to some, how much it has regressed).
Got any favourite GIFs or images that you use all the time? Post ’em below.