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.
Each year, Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. The publisher typically chooses British and American winners. This year’s American champion is “gif,” short for graphics interchange format, a common format for images on the Internet.
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.
The American winner gif was chosen over shortlisted terms including:
• Eurogeddon, the potential financial collapse of the eurozone, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability.
• Super PAC, a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.
• Superstorm, an unusually large and destructive storm
• Nomophobia, anxiety caused by being without one’s mobile phone
• Higgs boson, a subatomic particle whose existence is predicted by the theory that unified the weak and electromagnetic interactions
• YOLO, you only live once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior
• MOOC, massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the Internet.