‘Omnishambles’ is Britain’s word of year
LONDON—Britain’s media are in a meltdown and its government is gaffe-prone, so Oxford Dictionaries has chosen an apt Word of the Year: “omnishambles.”
Oxford University Press today crowned the word—defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations”—its top term of 2012.
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 images on the Internet.
The editors said gif was being recognized for making the crucial transition from noun to verb, “to gif”: to create a gif file of an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event. And, inevitably, to share it online.
Cute kittens, Olympic champions, President Obama—they’ve all been giffed.
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 U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubts about London’s ability to host a successful Olympics.
Omnishambles was chosen over short-listed terms including “mummy 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 (for American English speakers, it’s “mommy porn.”)
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 short-listed word “Eurogeddon” while technology produced “second screening” (watching TV while simultaneously using a computer, phone, or tablet), and social media popularized the acronym “YOLO” (you only live once).