Omnishambles beats Eurogeddon, Gif and Mobot as Oxford word of the year
Dictionary compilers choose The Thick Of It coining over other contenders including mummy-porn, green-on-blue and Yolo
- Associated Press in London
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 November 2012 01.49 EST
Games-makers doing the Mobot were not enough to beat omnishambles for the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
With the BBC embroiled in a crisis of its own making and the British government showing itself to be gaffe-prone, it is perhaps appropriate that Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year is omnishambles.
Oxford University Press has crowned the word its top term of 2012, defining it as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations".
Each year the publisher tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. The publisher typically chooses separate British and American winners. This year's American champion is gif, short for graphics interchange format: one of the internet's oldest ways of transmitting pictures, it has undergone a viral resurgence in popularity as people rediscover how to post animated versions online.
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 the US presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubts about London's ability to host a successful Olympics.
Omnishambles was chosen over shortlisted 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.
The Olympics offered up finalists including the verb "to medal"; Games-makers, the name given to thousands of Olympic volunteers; and distance runner Mo Farah's victory dance, the Mobot.
Europe's financial crisis lent the shortlisted word eurogeddon, while technology produced second-screening – watching TV while simultaneously using a computer, phone or tablet – and social media popularised the acronym Yolo, you only live once.
The final shortlisted term is an old word given new life. Pleb, a derogatory epithet for lower-class people, was alleged to have been uttered to a police officer by the British cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell. He denied using the word but later resigned.
All the shortlisted words have made a splash in 2012 but editors say there is no guarantee any of them will endure long enough to enter the hallowed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary.