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Omnishambles beats off mummy-porn, becomes English word of 2012

Thick Of It whips Fifty Shades of Grey

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The UK's new word of 2012 is "omnishambles", according to the Oxford English Dictionary's compilers.

Selected from a list of several new words added to the gold-standard dictionary this year, omnishambles was chosen by lexicographers at Oxford University Press because it best reflects the mood of the past 12 months. It was first used by the character Malcolm Tucker in series three of the BBC satire The Thick of It and subsequently repeated by the Coalition government's political opponents.

Dictionary compiler Susie Dent said it's a popular word that can be used to describe anything from the BBC's response to allegations of child sex abuse to the government's budget U-turns and G4S's Olympic security contract cock-up.

The OED now defines it as:

A situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations.

Other contenders were "mummy porn" (a description of the genre inspired by smack'n'tickle ebook bonkbuster 50 Shades of Grey), "green-on-blue" (to describe attacks by Afghan police or troops on NATO servicemen), the verb "medal" (from the Olympics), "eurogeddon" (from Eurozone crisis) and the acronym "YOLO" (contraction of the trite phrase "You Only Live Once", mostly used as a justification after someone does something stupid on the internet).

Americans - who get their own list - were given "GIF" as their new word of the year from the Oxford English Dictionary. GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, is not a new thing but its inclusion is testament to the resurgence of the image file format.

The etymology of shambles is a term for a fish or meat market that evolved to describe a slaughterhouse, a scene of carnage or mess. "Omni", a Latin prefix for "all", suggests omnishambles means all-round confusion and havoc.

The dictionary compilers were particularly tickled by the tweaking of omnishambles to Romneyshambles - used to describe Mitt Romney after he slagged off the London Olympics. ®

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