‘Omnishambles,' ‘gif' chosen as words of year as word of the year

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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 on Tuesday 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.

Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. It 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.

Editors said gif was 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.

Coined by writers of the satirical television show "The Thick of It," omnishambles has been applied to government public relations blunders and 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 shortlisted terms including "mummy [or 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.

Other words on the U.S. shortlist included superstorm (as in Sandy) and "nomophobia," the anxiety caused by being without one's mobile phone.

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