x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Just the right word

Sure, 2012 had had its problems. But has it really been an "omnishambles"?

Lexicographers at Oxford University Press, in the UK, have in their wisdom selected a "word of the year" for 2012, and it's one that gets this sad blot of the calendar exactly right.

They chose "omnishambles", defined as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations".

This is the mot juste for our times. "Omni" is Latin for "all". "Shambles", originally a slaughterhouse, means a place of disorder or ruin.

Everyone will have their own examples of tragic ineptitude, failed statesmanship and bad judgement, large and small. US Republicans, for example, began referring to US presidential candidate Mitt Romney's foreign trip in July as the Romneyshambles, due to a number of verbal missteps.

At least that failure was a two-sided coin; it can also be seen as a success for President Barack Obama. Too many other events of 2012 have proved to be unalloyed disasters, from the sinking of the Costa Concordia in January to the continued carnage in Syria. Things that are supposed to be managed well - countries, negotiations, companies - are far too often marked, just as the definition says, by "a string of blunders and miscalculations."

All we can do now is stumble to the end of this year and hope for better times ahead. After all, 2013 can't be this bad. Can it?