Tag Archives: teenager


26 Feb

images-3Context (as much as definition, tone and volume) gives a word its resonance and poignancy. Or not.  The how and when can make the most ordinary of greetings, formalities or comments rich with significance and sentiment.
Saturday last, the timing of a simple “Please?” made me stop short as I led my sons out of Waterloo station on a freezing afternoon. We were heading towards a warm café tea – the plea-sayer was already seated, tired and grubby on the icy grey pavement. Sad eyes told me desperation and hunger were the order. Suddenly acutely sad for the beggar, I proffered more coins than usual. Touched by the moment, ashamed that it took the inclement weather to incite this generosity, in my mind I questioned whether humility is the dish best served cold?
My teenage son says “Sorry!” while rolling his eyes and sighing, revealing how very unremorseful he feels. Later, as I bend my head to say goodnight, he whispers his real apology unbidden and I hear the meaning loud and clear.
The declaration “We did it” can signal incrimination, affirmation or celebration according to the moment, while double-entendres are innocent or bawdy with either careless or careful placement. The most generic of nouns can be rendered superbly-special: Train has special meaning as the first intelligible word uttered by one of my children, parental friends cite shoe and duck with similar affection. “Bedtime” has numerous possible intentions: a statement, a question a threat… an invitation perhaps!
My Dad has Alzheimers. He lives some distance away – metaphorically and actually. He’s no longer sure who I am, and loses his words by the day. Those he does share with me don’t always enlighten. But, however muddled, I gift the words with imagined meaning drawn from the context. At the end of my latest visit I kissed him goodbye and promised I’d be back soon. “Back soon…” he repeated. I added a question mark and a requestful intonation in my head. Poignant. Back soon?  I wish he would be.


20 Nov

word nickyswordsEmbrace evolution and savour the opportunity for conversational shenanigans – Omnishambles has been declared the Oxford University Press ‘Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year’ for 2012. At four unhurried syllables and with only four vowels to eight consonants, this is a cobbled together yet hyphen-free word. I marvel at the beautiful mark it makes on the page, no descenders (bits that go below the line) allowed! How thrilling.

Attributed to the writers of BBC political comedy/drama The Thick of It, omnishambles is to be seized upon with glee. Just the right degree of onomatopoeia to indicate the disorder it describes. A cementing together of two old words to create something rambling, and messed up – it’s a bit of a mutant yet deserving of our full attention. US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticised London’s preparations for Olympics as “omnishambles” (oh how foolish he must feel now that we proved him so wrong with our British ‘spirit of the Blitz pull-it-out-of-the-bag showmanship!). And Labour party leader Ed Miliband, described the 2012 budget (which according to him had every type of tax in shambles) “an omnishambles budget”. That one I’ll leave to you to judge. So we’re in good company.. ahem, well noted company perhaps.

But despite the current fuss, omnishambles is not really such a new concept. The prefix ‘omni’ is from the Latin omnis meaning ‘all’ – as in omnipresent – and the noun shambles describes a state of confusion and bad organization. Actually, shambles is also pretty ancient in derivation. The name of a wooden stool (the Old English word scomul meaning ‘footstool’) evolved to become ‘shambles’ and by the Middle Ages, streets where stalls were set up randomly and often crammed full had become known as ‘shambles’. By the 17th Century, shambles had become a byword for chaos and disorder and so it has remained.

Enough history, back to the future. We now welcome omnishambles as a new plaything, the birth of an expression where disarray can be mixed with ineptitude perchance, and, dear reader, I for one will be making free with it. After all, how lovely to gifted the opportunity to drop it into every day conversation. Imagine the scene:

You: So how was your day?

Me: Ah… utter omnishambles!

You sympathetic smiles and nodding head as you proffer a glass of the strong stuff to calm me down after such dreadful indictment of proceedings (okay, the last bit is a bit off the point, but I live in hope.)

Or how about describing the state to behold in a teenager’s bedroom (should you dare open the door in daylight you’ll need an armory of good adjectives to utter) as grossly omnishambolic! “Get up here and sort out this omnishambles,” you will cry. Said juvenile bounds upstairs with duster and rubbish bag in hand… or not.

The possibilities are endless… so go… try it out. Have fun.