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'Omnishambles' Oxford University Press Word of the Year

'Omnishambles' in the thick of it when Oxford comes to defining topsy-turvy times

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 3:52am

Britain's media is in meltdown and its government is gaffe-prone, so Oxford Dictionaries has chosen an apt Word of the Year: "omnishambles".

Oxford University Press has crowned the word - defined as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations" - its top term of 2012.

Each year Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. The publisher typically chooses separate British and American winners. This year's American champion is "gif", short for graphics interchange format, a common format for moving images on the internet.

Coined by writers of the satirical television show The Thick of It, omnishambles has been applied to everything from government PR blunders to the crisis-ridden preparations for the London Olympics.

Oxford University Press lexicographer Susie Dent said the word was chosen for its popularity as well as its "linguistic productivity".

She said "a notable coinage coming from the word is Romneyshambles" - a derisive term used by the British press after US presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubts about London's ability to host a successful Olympics.

Other shortlisted terms including "mummy/mommy porn" - the genre exemplified by the best-selling 50 Shades book series - and "green-on-blue", military attacks by forces regarded as neutral, as when members of the Afghan army or police attack foreign troops.

The Olympics offered up finalists including the verb "to medal", "Games Maker" - the name given to thousands of Olympic volunteers - and distance runner Mo Farah's victory dance, "the Mobot".

Europe's financial crisis lent the shortlisted word "Eurogeddon", while technology produced "second screening" - watching TV while simultaneously using a computer, phone or tablet - and social media popularised the acronym "YOLO", you only live once.

The final shortlisted term is an old word given new life. "Pleb", a derogatory epithet for lower-class people, was alleged to have been uttered to a police officer by British cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell. He denied using the term, but resigned.

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