The year in Trending: They came, they saw, they were found in Ikea...

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Forget about the heroes of Team GB and the Royals, we salute those who really made 2012 great. Sort of

Contenders include rescue dogs Porter and Monty, who were taught to drive by the New Zealand SPCA to show how smart they are. Elsewhere we were smitten with the nine golden retrievers of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry who were sent to Newtown after the Sandy Hook massacre. Not quite as selfless was designer Karl Lagerfeld's cat Choupette, who has three maids, travels with Karl in his private jet and has her own Twitter account. There could only be one creature of the year, though, although Canadian animal protection agencies may disagree, arise Darwin the monkey. Darwin became an unlikely style icon when he was found wandering around a Toronto Ikea store wearing a jacket that the late Manchester City manager Malcolm Allison would have been proud of.

Self-publicists of the year

Emili Sandé had the best-selling album of the year in the UK – much of that was thanks to her performances at both the Olympics Opening and Closing ceremonies – as well as one of her songs being played over the PA during the first show and the BBC having her sing "Imagine" for one of their incredibly serious montages. Sandé even popped up at Sports Personality of the Year to remind us that it is she, not Barry Davies, who is the true voice of sport.

Shahid Nazir, aka One Pound Fish man, made an unlikely bid for Christmas No 1 after singing "One Pound Fish" a lot at his east London market stall made him a smash on YouTube; the single reached No 29. Sadly, Nazir's visa ran out last week and he had to return to Pakistan.

The outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proved a master of PR with a series of impromptu winning moves including dancing in South Africa with the Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, swigging beer from the bottle while out with aides in Colombia and – best of all – gamefully playing along with the Texts from Hillary Clinton blog. All of which should be very handy if Clinton were, to say, run for President.

Captains of the year

Francesco Schettino started his year with a bang, and then a worrying creaking sound, as he sailed the Costa Concordia straight into a reef during the least successful sail-past since the Lusitania ventured towards the Irish coast.

Saint Kitts and Nevis's athletics captain Kim Collins is the islands' greatest-ever athlete. Yet the former world 100m champion found himself booted from his own team for choosing to spend time with his wife instead of spending it with his team, making him possibly the first sports star in history to find infamy for spending time with his family.

But the clear leader among captains is John Terry. Besides other unfortunate events, he outdid himself in Munich in May when, despite being suspended for the final, Terry and other banned Chelsea players stripped down at the final whistle to reveal full Chelsea kits to lift the trophy in. As Terry lifted the cup, a nation wished official Chelsea suit partners Dolce & Gabbana had been a bit more contractually insistent.

Neologisms of the year

"Shamazing!" – Clearly lost for words following an already forgotten X Factor performance by Jahmene Douglas, former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger blurted out this compound of "shazam" and "amazing" in a brazen attempt to coin her own catchphrase (see "Jeah!" below).

Omnishambles – From the lips of Malcom Tucker, this blunt adjective for a particularly dire political screw-up made its way into the Commons via Ed Miliband and then transferred across the pond, when Mitt "Romneyshambles" made his dire visit to the UK. Now in the OED.

Fiscal Cliff – Not the one in Thelma and Louise, Dover or Richard, but a metaphor for the recession due to hit the US in mid-2013.

Frankenstorm – Names for hurricanes don't come much scarier than this, but as Superstorm Sandy raced towards the East Coast of the US this was the only hashtag worth using.

Sports stars of the year

Footballers get a bad and unfair rep for their salaries and behaviour. So well done then to West Brom's Liam Ridgewell who undid any good work done by Premier League players when a picture emerged of him wiping his backside with £1,000 worth of £20 notes. Why not fifties, Liam?

Kevin Pietersen confirmed himself as one of England's all-time great batsmen with his swashbuckling 22nd Test century in November but only after a painful separation from the side prompted by Pietersen allegedly sending texts to pals in the South African dressing room calling then-captain Andrew Strauss a "doos" (which means BAD WORD in Afrikaans).

Ryan Lochte, American swimming's Chris Froome, may look like the kind of guy who dishes out wedgies like a TGI Friday waitress but we love him anyway. Once Lochte was finished winning his five medals, he spent a week painting London's nightclubs red, white'n'blue and making his super-dumb catchphrase "Jeah" part of the sporting vocabulary.

Gates of the year

Plebgate/Gategate – The gate of all gates had to be Gategate, also known as Plebgate, in which then Tory whip Andrew Mitchell may (though likely may not) have called a policeman a "pleb". Either way, he used the F-word, which is, objectively speaking, a bit much.

Urinegate – When MP Ben Bradshaw found the corner of his House of Commons office was drenched in urine he took to Twitter with this hashtag to voice his disdain.

Pastygate – When George Osborne attempted to charge VAT on hot baked goods it prompted public outrage, not least after David Cameron claimed to have last eaten a pasty at Leeds train station, despite that there was no place to buy one there at the time.

Shuttlegate – The name given to what was possibly the worst game of badminton ever witnessed outside of Britain's municipal leisure centres, when the Chinese and South Korean women's doubles teams were disqualified during the Olympics after trying to lose.

Weird foods of the year

As soon as M&S announced it had created an English Breakfast Pizza to "celebrate" the Queen's Jubilee you knew it was going to be a year of strange food. So it proved. "Hong Kong Heston" Alvin Leung rocked up in London, opening Bo London, an "X-treme Chinese". Its signature dish? A dessert which looks like a post-coital condom. That peak of creativity was only surpassed by US firm J&D foods' Kevin Bacon sculpture, which was made, of course, entirely from bacon. The coup de grâce came from Noma's RenÉ Redzepi, who persuaded diners at his pop-up at Claridge's to pay £195 to eat live ants.

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