Omnishambles

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Omnishambles is a neologism first used in the BBC political satire The Thick of It. The word is compounded from the Latin prefix omni-, meaning "all", and the word shambles, meaning a situation of total disorder. The word refers to a situation which is seen as shambolic from all possible perspectives. It gained popularity in 2012 after sustained usage in the political sphere led to it being named Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year, and it was formally added to the online editions of the Oxford English Dictionary in August 2013.[1]

Background[edit]

The term was coined by writer Tony Roche, and first used at the end of the first episode of the third series of BBC political satire The Thick of It, broadcast in 2009, during which Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) is drafted in as a cabinet minister for the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship at the behest of the government's director of communications Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Murray's first day as a cabinet minister is fraught by press inquiries into her husband's involvement in a private finance initiative contract, her appropriating an expensive office chair from a staff member, and her intention to send her daughter to a private school. Tucker sends Murray to launch a by-election campaign, but a communications error results in her standing in front of the candidate's poster and blocking most of the letters so the signs appears to read "I am bent" as she is filmed and photographed. Tucker believes Murray to be a potential cause of political controversy, and his patience expires when it is revealed the minister is afraid of elevators. Tucker then delivers an angry rebuke to her:[2][3]

Not only have you got a fucking bent husband and a fucking daughter that gets taken to school in a fucking sedan chair, you're also fucking mental. Jesus Christ, see you, you're a fucking omnishambles, that's what you are. You're like that coffee machine, you know: from bean to cup, you fuck up.

—Malcolm Tucker to Nicola Murray, "Series 3, Episode 1", The Thick of It.[2]

The term was popularised by Labour Party leader and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP, in a speech to the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions on 18 April 2012, criticising the government's 2012 budget and the resulting public image:[4][5]

On charities, the reality is that the Prime Minister is not making the rich worse off. He is making charities worse off. Over the past month we have seen the charity tax shambles, the churches tax shambles, the caravan tax shambles and the pasty tax shambles, so we are all keen to hear the Prime Minister’s view on why he thinks, four weeks on from the Budget, even people within Downing Street are calling it an omnishambles Budget.

Ed Miliband MP, Prime Ministers Questions, 18 April 2012[6]

The term was again used in Parliament by Opposition politicians to criticise various government actions: by Chuka Umunna,[7] Ed Balls,[8] Steve Rotherham,[9] Julie Hilling,[10] Rachel Reeves,[11] and Catherine McKinnell[12] to criticise the budget; Yvette Cooper to criticise the failed deportation of Abu Qatada;[13] and Ivan Lewis,[14] Margaret Curran,[15] and Caroline Flint[13] in reference to the perceived ineffectualness of the government. The term was adapted for use in Scottish politics by Labour MSP Richard Baker, who referred to First Minister Alex Salmond's refusal to admit to a lack of legal advice on an independent Scotland's accession to the European Union as a "Scomnishambles".[16]

Due to its adoption as a political catchprase, the editors of the Collins English Dictionary submitted the word for the dictionary's first public consultation into new additions,[17] defining it as "something which is completely and continuously shambolic".[18] In news coverage preceding the fourth series of The Thick of It, use of the word omnishambles was cited by the cast and crew as an example of life imitating art; in an interview with ShortList, series co-writer Will Smith commented that politicians were "watching the show and embracing it", describing Miliband's use of the phrase as "baffling".[19]

A similar term, "Romneyshambles" was created as a political attack during the 2012 US presidential election based on comments eventual nominee Mitt Romney made criticizing London's preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics.[20]

On 13 November 2012, omnishambles was named Word of the Year by the Oxford English Dictionary. Lexicographer and judge on the panel Fiona McPherson remarked that: "It was a word everyone liked, which seemed to sum up so many of the events over the last 366 days in a beautiful way."[21][22]

The word was formally added to the online editions of the Oxford English Dictionary in August 2013 together with a number of other words that had also gained popularity during 2012 and 2013. These included selfie, twerk and digital detox.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kennedy, Maev (28 August 2013). "Omnishambles among new words added to Oxford Dictionaries online". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Writer: Simon Blackwell, et al (24 October 2009). "Series 3, Episode 1". The Thick of It. Series 3. Episode 1. Event occurs at c. 26 minutes. BBC Two. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00npkc9.
  3. ^ John Plunkett (25 October 2012). "The Thick of It: good news, minister, the show is over". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "The origin of "omnishambles"". The Staggers. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Mulholland, Hélène (27 July 2012). "Mitt Romney gets cold reception from UK media after Olympic gaffe". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 18 Apr 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 1. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 30 Apr 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 3. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 17 May 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 2. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 13 Jun 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 1. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 02 July 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 2. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 02 July 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 4. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 03 July 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 3. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "House of Commons Debates for 12 July 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 1. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  14. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 15 May 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 4. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "House of Commons Debates for 20 Jun 2012". Hansard (Parliament of the United Kingdom): 4. 20 June 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Bruised Salmond denies lying as rows engulf SNP". The Herald. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  17. ^ O'Neill, Cordelia (17 July 2012). "Collins dictionary invites word suggestions". The Independent. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "Definition of omnishambles (New Word Suggestion)". Collins Dictionary. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  19. ^ Nassim, Mayer (6 September 2012). "'Thick of It' writers not flattered by Ed Miliband 'omnishambles'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  20. ^ Irvine, Chris (27 July 2012). "Romneyshambles: Democrats seize on Mitt Romney's gaffes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "Omnishambles named word of the year by Oxford English Dictionary". BBC News (BBC News). 13 November 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  22. ^ McPherson, Fiona (November 2012). "Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012: 'omnishambles'". oxforddictionaries.com.