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What have the words GIF and omnishambles got in common?

They’ve both been picked as words of the year by Oxford University Press, that’s what.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

“OMNISHAMBLES” WAS NAMED Britain’s word of the year today after being coined by BBC TV’s satirical political series “The Thick of It” to describe a badly mismanaged situation.

The word has become a synonym for British government blunders, and it was tweaked to “Romneyshambles” by Twitter users to describe US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s gaffe-strewn visit to Britain before the London Olympics.

It has been named the word of the year by the publishers of the Oxford dictionaries, which defined it as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”

But Oxford University Press (OUP) said the decision does not mean the word will automatically take its place in all new Oxford dictionaries, explaining that it would have to “stand the test of time” before it was included.

The word beat off competition from a shortlist including “Mobot”, a word describing the celebratory gesture performed by the British long-distance runner Mo Farah on winning two Olympic gold medals.

Mo Farah doing the “Usain Bolt” and Usain Bolt doing the “Mobot” at this year’s Olympic Games in London. (Adam Davy/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Another contender was “mummy porn”, the term for the publishing phenomenon sparked by the sado-masochistic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

OUP spokeswoman Susie Dent said: “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.

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“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.”

Winners of OUP’s UK Word of the Year award over recent years have included “chav”, “bovvered”, “credit crunch” and “big society”.

The OUP’s American word of the year is “GIF,” short for graphics interchange format, a compressed file format for images on the Internet.

- © AFP, 2012

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