Oxford chooses 'omnishambles' as word of the year

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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 today 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 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.

The editors said gif was being 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. And, inevitably, to share it online. Cute kittens, Olympic champions, President Obama — they’ve all been giffed.

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.”

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