Linguistics: We can't put a label on how awful this is...
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Friday 20 April 2012
The word of the week is omnishambles. Omnishambles. Roll it round your lips.
It was a word first used in an expletive-strewn rant by Malcolm Tucker in a lift in The Thick Of It. Recently it became part of the argot of journalists and Government special advisers after Tim Shipman, chairman of the Press Gallery of the House of Commons and deputy political editor of the Daily Mail, used it in private conversation to describe "level six of a 12-point scale" for measuring political disasters.
On Tuesday, Rachel Sylvester, the Times columnist, quoted "one government source" as saying: "I think the technical term is omnishambles." That gave the leader of the Opposition his opening at Prime Minister's Questions the next day. Just beforehand, Mr Shipman asked me: "What price Ed Miliband using the phrase 'omnishambles' in PMQs?"
He couldn't possibly, I said. That would be silly. How wrong I was.
"We are all keen to hear the Prime Minister's view", Mr Miliband said, "on why he thinks, four weeks on from the Budget, even people within Downing street are calling it an omnishambles Budget." Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. That killed it.
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