Word of the year ‘omnishambles’ reflects British mood
It must be bad – Oxford Dictionaries has chosen the word “omnishambles” as its word of the year, reflecting the national mood.
Oxford University Press defined the word as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations”.
Each year Oxford University Press follows how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year.
Omnishambles was coined by the writers of satirical television programme The Thick of It.
In it the foul-mouthed Government press officer Malcolm Tucker tells hapless minister Nicola Murray, on learning she is claustrophobic: “Jesus Christ, see you, you are a f—ing omni-shambles, that’s what you are. You’re like that coffee machine, you know, ‘From bean to cup, you f— up.'”
It is still most commonly used in political contexts, but its usage has evolved rapidly in other contexts to describe any debacle or poorly managed situation.
Oxford University Press lexicographer Susie Dent explained that the word was chosen for its “productivity” as well as its popularity.
She said: “The Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year is a word, or expression, that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date.
“In the case of omnishambles, we also recognised its linguistic productivity: a notable coinage coming from the word is Romneyshambles, coined in the UK to describe US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s views on London’s ability to host a successful Olympic Games.”
“Other spin-off terms have been largely humorous or one-off – from Olympishambles and Scomnishambles, to omnivoreshambles and Toryshambles.”
Omnishambles was chosen over shortlisted terms including “mummy porn” – the genre exemplified by the bestselling “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 allegedly uttered to a police officer by British Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell. He denied using the term, but resigned.
The word of the year does not automatically gain entrance into the Oxford dictionary.
For a new word to be included in an Oxford dictionary there must be strong evidence that the word or expression will have staying power in everyday language.
Oxford University Press typically chooses separate British and American winners.
This year’s American word of the year is “gif”, short for graphics interchange format, a common format for images on the internet.
The Telegraph, 13 November 2012