April 19, 2021
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And The Word Of The Year Is...

And The Word Of The Year Is...

So it is official now. The word of the year for Oxford Dictionaries UK is Omnishambles, while their USA counterparts have chosen Gif as their word of the year. 

  • omnishambles, noun, informal: a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations

Originally used in the British political comedy television series The Thick of It, omnishambles has gained momentum throughout 2012 as a word used to describe a comprehensively mismanaged situation, characterized by a shambolic string of blunders, said the press release by the Oxford dictionaries.

Although omnishambles is still most commonly used in political contexts, usage has evolved rapidly in other contexts to describe any debacle or poorly managed situation. Omnishambles, derived from omni- (‘all’) and shambles (‘a state of total disorder’), has given rise to its own derivative, omnishambolic, indicating that potentially this is a word with staying power.

Spokesperson Susie Dent explained the decision: “The Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year is a word, or expression, that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. In the case of omnishambles, we also recognised its linguistic productivity: a notable coinage coming 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 and Scomnishambles, to omnivoreshambles and Toryshambles.”

A shortlist of other candidates under consideration in the UK included:

  • mummy porn, noun, informal, chiefly derogatory: erotic fiction of a type written for or read by women
  • Games Maker, noun: a volunteer responsible for helping the public at an Olympic venue during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games [a proprietary term for various goods and services]
  • medal, verb: to win a medal in a sporting event or competition by finishing first, second, or third
  • Eurogeddon, noun, informal: the potential financial collapse of the European Union countries that have adopted the euro, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability. [from EURO and (ARMA)GEDDON]
  • green-on-blue, phrase: Military denoting or relating to an attack made on one’s own side by forces regarded as neutral : the shooting was the latest in a string of  green-on-blue attacks. [from the use of green to indicate neutral forces and blue to indicate friendly forces in military exercises]
  • pleb, noun, derogatory: an ordinary person, especially one regarded as being of low social status. [from Latin plebs ‘the common people’]
  • second screening, noun: the practice or activity of watching television while simultaneously using a smartphone, tablet computer, laptop, or other screen device, typically in order to read about the programme being watched or post about it on a social media site
  • Mobot, noun: a characteristic gesture as performed by the British long-distance runner Mo Farah on winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres events at the 2012 Olympics, in which both arms are arched above the head with the hands pointing down to the top of the head to form a distinctive ’M’ shape [blend of Mo (diminutive of ‘Mohamed’) and ROBOT]
  • YOLO, acronym, informal: ‘you only live once’, typically used as a rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behaviour

Previous WOTY have included:

Year Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year
2004 chav
2005 sudoku
2006 bovvered
2007 carbon footprint
2008 credit crunch
2009 simples
2010 big society
2011 squeezed middle

In the USA, the word of the year was declared to be Gif

  • GIF, verb: to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event) 

“The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier,” notes Katherine Martin, Head of the US Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press USA.  “GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

Indeed, GIFING has had an amazing year in 2012.  In January the New York Public Library launched stereogranimator allowing visitors to create GIFs of 40,000+ digitized stereographs from its collection and share them.  Then in March Tumblr hit 20 billion blog posts.  July saw the 20th anniversary of the first GIF posted on the World Wide Web, a photograph of the band “Les Horribles Cernettes”.  In August GIFing was perfect medium for sharing scenes from the Summer Olympics in London, especially this coverage of the vault from The Atlantic.  Most recently many media outlets were live-GIFing the 2012 presidential  debates.

A shortlist of other candidates under consideration in the US included:

  • Eurogeddon: the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability [from euro + (arma)geddon]
  • 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 [from no + mo(bile) + phobia]
  • 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 behaviour
  • MOOC: massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the internet

The previous WOTY for the USA have included:



2005 podcast
2006 carbon-neutral
2007 locavore
2008 hypermiling
2009 unfriend
2010 refudiate
2011 squeezed middle


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