Oxford University Highlights 2012 “Words Of The Year”
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Every year the Oxford University Press attempts to take a snapshot in time of English-speaking culture by selecting the “words of the year.”
For 2012, the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have chosen ℠omnishambles´ as their word of the year for the United Kingdom.
The word of the year should not be confused with new entrants into the Oxford dictionary. Those words are selected because they are said to have staying power in everyday language that spans several years.
Defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations,” the term omnishambles was coined by the satirical British television program–The Thick of It in 2009.
The term is more commonly used in political contexts, as it was in the show, but its evolving usage and ℠productivity´ helped to make it the choice for word of the year, Oxford University Press lexicographer Susie Dent told The Telegraph.
“In the case of omnishambles, we also recognized its linguistic productivity: a notable coinage coming from the word is Romneyshambles, coined in the U.K. to describe U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney´s views on London´s ability to host a successful Olympic Games,” Dent explained.
“Other spin-off terms have been largely humorous or one-off — from Olympishambles and Scomnishambles, to omnivoreshambles and Toryshambles,” she added.
The U.K. term was chosen over several other candidates–including “mummy porn,” inspired by the popularity of the “50 Shades” book series; “green-on-blue,” used to describe military attacks by the Afghan army or police on the foreign troops they work alongside; and “eurogeddon,” a term emphasizing Europe’s ongoing financial crisis.
The publisher has a separate process for determining the U.S. word of the year, which was ℠gif´ for 2012. The file extension ℠.gif´, which denotes an image file, has been around for a long time, but Tumblrs and internet memes have given the three-letter word new life.
“The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year,” Oxford University Press´ Katherine Martin told Time, “but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier.”
Gif beat out several other terms that became popular in American parlance, including ℠superstorm,´ as inspired by Hurricane Sandy and ℠super PAC,´ a term describing the nebulous political groups that spent billions of dollars trying to influence the stateside elections.
Candidates for word of the year also seem to reflect trendy phrases that sustain several months of momentum and can be unique to either British or American culture. For example, ℠YOLO,´ an acronym for “You only live once,” was popularized by the rap artist Drake in his 2011 song ℠The Motto´. YOLO was derided by The Washington Post in October as “the newest acronym you’ll love to hate.”
A quirky word that made the British list, ℠Pleb´, came out of an incident related to U.K. politics. Derived from the antiquated term plebian, it was supposedly said to a police officer by British Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, who would eventually resign his post as a result of the row caused by the alleged incident.