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5 Comments

  • Ian Preston, on Twitter, says that to his ear, “each use comes over clearly as ‘shambles’.” I think he and the reports are right: all sound unambiguously plural to me, too. He finds it strange that Miliband separates omni and shambles as though they’re separate words, but I suppose that’s for emphasis and rhythm.

  • STOP PRESS: yet more linguistic inflation (heard on lunchtime news today). With yet more bad press for the UK government (including news of a ‘double dip recession‘), one of the political commentators is now talking about an ‘Übershambles’. Where will it all end?

  • There’s more, Michael – on a blog called Snouts in the Trough on the same day: ‘Omni-shambles is a great word. It brilliantly described this useless government’s pathetic efforts a couple of weeks ago. But with the latest blunders and gaffes, we probably new (sic.) a new word. There’s mega-shambles or giga-shambles or meta-shambles. Or maybe we need something stronger than that.’ The desire to inflate ‘shamble(s)’ seems insatiable. This one could run and run.

  • You know I’m not sure that I agree that ‘omnishambles’ represents an example of linguistic inflation (in its recently discussed sense of ‘devaluation’ of meaning). I think that what Ed wants to do here is precisely the opposite, he absolutely wants to make it clear that he regards things an olympic cock-up, and rather than using the conventional amplifiers that Michael mentions (total, utter) he goes for something innovative, because even those adjectives don’t quite capture the intensity of his feeling. I don’t know whether anyone’s familiar with the lexical function theories of Igor Melcuk, but to my mind this is a classic example of his Magn function, ie: Omnishambles = Magn(shambles). The other examples Di mentions reflect this view, ie that existing lexical items don’t go far enough in describing ‘the mess’. This is quite a different animal to the popular use of words like awesome, genius etc…

  • Good point, Kerry: a ‘complete’ or ‘utter’ shambles could just be a single shambles of an especially extreme nature. An ‘omnishambles’ is all-encompassing collection of shambolic events.