‘The Thick Of It’ Takes “Omnishambles” All The Way To The Dictionary

Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It

It’s always satisfying when smart modern words manage to make their way into everyday language next to all of those internet neologisms like LOL and totes amazeballs and whatnot, so hats off to the writing team behind the British comedy The Thick of It, which aired its final episode a couple of weeks back, for getting the term omnishambles – meaning a situation which is a mess in every conceivable direction – into common usage.

The term – used disparagingly by Peter Capaldi’s character Malcolm Tucker – is a pun, most likely taken from the name of Pete Doherty’s post-Libertines group Babyshambles, which was itself a kind of portmanteu pun on Babycham the drink (miniature fizzy wine, not actual champagne for babies), and the fact that he’s a bit shambolic as a person.

So common, in fact, that the Oxford English Dictionary has named it their word of the year. And its use has not been confined to Britain either. For example, when Mitt Romney visited London in the runup to the Olympic Games, his tendency to say preposterous things (such as telling NBC News that he’d reviewed the preparations for the games and it was “hard to know just how well it will turn out”) saw him labelled “Romneyshambles” by the press.

We should be doubly thankful that omnishambles has does as well as it has, given that its nearest rivals in the Word of the Year race were terms such as Eurogeddon, the term “mummy porn” (which refers to fruity novels such as RL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey), or the Olympic specific Mobot, referring to Mo Farah’s celebration dance when he won his gold medals.

That’s the gold medals he won at the INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL London Games, Mr Romney. How’d that election pan out for ya?

Note: Fraser McAlpine is British. This explains a lot. 

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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