more on the word(s) of the year…

Gif is America’s word of the year? Now that’s what I call an omnishambles
Unlike their UK cousins, who named ‘omnishambles’ word of the year, OUP’s noun-to-verb US lexicographers are unconvincing

Alison Flood

I rather like the idea of a word of the year. We have a sports personality of the year, after all, and I like words better than sport, so why not?

I approve, as well, Oxford University Press’s choice of “omnishambles” to take the title: not only was it coined by the brilliant The Thick of It, but it has a surprisingly useful meaning – “a word used to describe a comprehensively mismanaged situation, characterised by a shambolic string of blunders”, says OUP – and a lovely ring to it.

Omnishambles. Just try saying it; it’s a great workout for the mouth. I much prefer it to the other contenders put forward by OUP, at any rate: I know I’m not the only person to be driven wild with fury by the verb “to medal”, and the concept of “mummy porn” fills me with rage at its dismissive snideness. I wouldn’t have minded “pleb” taking the crown, just because it would have reminded us all of this, but thank God it wasn’t one of the social media-spawned acronyms suggested, YOLO or FOMO.

Over in the US, OUP’s lexicographers plumped for gif as their word of the year – and it’s a verb, meaning “to create a gif file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event)”. It inspires the same sort of dread in me as “to medal” and “to podium”, but OUP explains its reasoning thus: “Gif celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The gif has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

I can’t see myself ever using it, and I remain unconvinced. Omnishambles, though – I’ll be working that into discussions wherever I can. What do you think of the winners – and what’s your personal word of the year?

The Telegraph, 14 November 2012

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