Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

It’s an omnishambles

Some people get excited about rich lists and best-dressed lists. I get a little excited when the Oxford English Dictionary announces its annual list of new words, although I must admit many of them make me cringe and feel a little old and disconnected.

But there are always a few pearls; words that conjure perfect images of their meanings and speak volumes about the present state of humanity. Terms that William Shakespeare would, if he was putting quill to paper today, slip into in his text without a second thought.

So, without further delay, honourable members of the academy of communication, ladies and gentlemen, here are my winners for the coolest and smartest words of the moment as listed in the on-line Oxford English Dictionary:

The best new word:

omnishambles, noun. (informal): a situation that has been totally mismanaged, characterised by a series of mistakes and miscalculations. Omni (all) + shambles (a state of total disorder). This is a delicious term. Pure poetry. Omnishambles came from a British TV writer’s imagination, was first spoken by a fictional TV character, was then adopted by the UK Opposition leader on the floor of the British parliament and then quickly entered into popular language and finally the dictionary. Omnishambles was first uttered in The Thick of It, a caustic black TV comedy that satirises the inner workings of the British government. The term was written for the series’ stand-out character Malcolm Tucker who is a horrible, foul-mouthed communications director and spin doctor.  Here he is using the term omnishambles as he abuses a colleague. NB: rude language.  Omnishambles crossed the Atlantic  and spawned Romneyshambles - a list of the gaffes and awkward moments from Mitt Romney's ill-fated bid for US presidency. Usage: “First the car accident, then the food poisoning and the lost keys… the holiday was an omnishambles.”

Best new narcissistic words:

me time, noun. (informal): time spent relaxing on one's own, the opposite of working or doing things for other people, also as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy. Usage: I’m sick and tired of cooking and looking after this family. I need some me time.

selfie, noun. (informal): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, often taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.  The long time girlfriend of NASA whistleblower Edward Snowden is/was a selfie. Lindsay Mills has a blog with hundreds of photos she had taken of herself in different clothes, poses, surrounds, which the media discovered days after her boyfriend made headlines around the world. Even the new Pope is a bit of a selfie. Usage: 'He noticed that when he doesn't post a selfie on his site, his followers go down by 50 a day. A lot of people are following him because of the selfies.

Best new fashion word

double denim, noun.: a style of dress in which a denim jacket or shirt is worn with a pair of jeans or a denim skirt, considered to be poor fashion etiquette or bad taste. Only cowboys, cowgirls and Robert Redford have the right to wear double denim. Usage: “Look at what that guy is wearing! Yuck, talk about double denim.”

Best new verb

unlike, verb.: withdraw (lv) one's liking or approval of something (often a web page or posting on a social media website that one has previously liked). To like and to unlike originate from Facebook. Another similar verb is to unfriend - the opposite of to friend. Usage: I liked the piece of art in the gallery at first, but then I took a closer look and instantly unliked it.

Best new expressions in four letters:

FOMO is the fear of missing out: anxiety or panic that an exciting or interesting event may be happening somewhere, and you are not able to experience it. Usage: I can't decide if I should go out tonight, but I know that if I don't I know I'll get chronic fomo.

TL;DR means too long; didn't read: used as a dismissive reply to a lengthy online post, also a form of trolling or humorous reply telling some one to get to the point. Usage: Have you read Tolstoy’s War and Peace? No way, tl;dr.

Well, ladies and gentlemen thank you for you time this evening. If you know of any other buzzworthy words (likely to arouse the interest and attention of the public, either by media coverage or word of mouth) please add you comments below.

Please note that I will not be hosting next year’s awards. I am going to have some me time and I will start with a digital detox (a period of time during which a person stops using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world). I have no fomo.


cringe - to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable about something

quill - a pen made from a bird's feather

uttered - to utter: to say something

caustic - bitter or sarcastic

foul-mouthed - someone who swears a lot

spin doctor - a person whose job is to present information to the public about a politician or an organization in the way that seems most positive





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