Finally, a word that encapsulates all political catastrophes: Omnishambles

Take the Government’s handling of, say, the health service or the children’s referendum and one word springs to mind: Omnishambles.

Coined in hit British political sitcom The Thick of It, life imitated art when British Labour leader Ed Miliband used it to describe the ruling Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s 2012 budget.

The word is on its way to become a legitimate adjective, having been chosen as Oxford Dictionaries’ UK word of the year.

Used to describe a comprehensively mismanaged situation, characterised by a string of blunders, the word could easily be used to describe much of Irish political life.

Oxford Dictionaries’ spokeswoman and Countdown lexicographer Susie Dent said the word had definite staying power.

“In the case of ‘omnishambles’, we also recognised its linguistic productivity: A notable coinage 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 to Toryshambles.”

While the word of the year has great resonance for 2012, it doesn’t mean it will automatically go into Oxford dictionaries. Evidence that a word or expression will stay the course is required before it is included in an Oxford dictionary.

The Olympics, unsurprisingly, managed to generate its very own vocabulary, with “Mobot” — the gesture performed by Mo Farah on winning his events — being the standout word.

Also on the shortlist was “Games maker” (a volunteer responsible for helping the public at an Olympic venue) and the verb “to medal”.

Technology’s impact is also clear on the shortlist. Terms to describe new behaviours include shortlisted “second screening” (watching television while using a second device, such as a smartphone), “selfie” (a picture of oneself taken with a smartphone and uploaded to a social media site), and “unboxing” (videoing the removal of a new electronic device from its box, then loading the video to the internet).

With the rise of erotic fiction written for or read by women, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s no surprise that “mummy porn” is also on the list. This follows in a long line of annoying catch-all phrases “chick lit” and “twit lit”.


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