Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:05 pm

“Overseas, Trump has pounded ISIS to the brink of defeat [[fake fact?]], taken a tough line with Iran and North Korea, and finally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ‘None of this is to deny Trump’s failings’; he remains a deeply divisive figure, with ‘a shambolic governing style.’”—The Week, 18 January, page 6>
Not a word I am familiar with, although Erik Kowal used it in his posting Apologies back in 2004:
<2004 “Their poor, pathetic, stunted, stumbling, shambolic efforts deserve to be trumpeted across the Internet.”—Apologies, Wordwizard, Erik Kowal, 11 March>

shambolic adjective (chiefly British) [[aha!]]:

1) unkempt, untidy, disordered

2) chaotic, disorderly, undisciplined.

3) disorganized or mismanaged.

Etymology: Probably from alteration of shambles: a scene of great disorder.

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary its first known use was in 1970. However, the Oxford English Dictionary says “Reported to be ‘in common use’ in 1958.”

Frequency (in current use): 3 out of a possible 8.

Note: Older dictionaries (e.g. 2001 edition of Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and the 2006 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary) don’t even list it and some newer dictionaries list it as British slang, colloquial, and informal. However, from an abundance of recent new quotes I’ve seen it appears to me to have gone mainstream in Britain, but very, very rarely appears in the U.S..

(Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary)

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1970 “His office in Printing House Square is so impeccably tidy that it is . . . a standing reproach to the standard image of shambolic newspaper offices.”—The Times (London), 18 June page 9>

<1975 “The average listener is in the position of anybody who encounters an organization at work for the first time. It may appear shambolic but how much is that because he hasn't yet made sense of it.”—The Times (London), 14 June, page 8/5>

<1978 “We may have a shambolic landing, Jean. I want you to go right through the aircraft reminding people about the emergency drill.”—News Caper by R. Jansson, xiii., page 110>

<1980 “It will continue in a much more shambolic manner than the urbanization that has occurred in the Western World.”—The Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, July, page 509/1>

<1990 “ At the end of 1989 member countries were $461m in arrears on the general budget of the UN and $447m in arrears on its peacekeeping budgets. Part of this is owed by shambolic countries whose national budgets are in just as much of a mess.”—The Economist (U.S.), 27 January>

<2000 “The Tories seized on the news, attacking Byers' 'shambolic approach'.”—The Daily Mail (London), 5 March>

<2014 “He spent eight weeks in hospital after his operation when the Turners say his care veered from shambolic to scandalous, and lead to their boy's death.”— The People (London), 12 January>

<2018 “His opening defeat at Watford was shambolic, on and off the pitch, with fans abusing players and directors and voicing disapproval of the manager who took Sunderland down last season.”—The Mirror (London), 5 January>

Ken Greenwald — January 7, 2018

Re: shambolic

Post by tony h » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:52 am

It is a lovely word which aptly describes that failure which comes from a completely absence of competence.

But the dates seem a bit modern. I am sure the word has been around all my life ...

A brief search of Google books, I might search wider another time, shows a snippet which seems to be quoting, but may be commenting on or parodying, The Three Jovial Huntsmen which was first published in 1880. "Shambolic" wasn't (or I have missed it) in the Gutenberg link below. My guess is that it is a wartime parody. ... 50&tbm=bks ... 4081-h.htm

Punch - Volume 205 - Page 504

Mark Lemon, ‎Henry Mayhew, ‎Tom Taylor - 1943 - ‎Snippet view - ‎More editions
THREE JOVIAL HUNTSMEN They hunted and they hollo'd, an' the. WE loll about the bar in twos and threes, Exchanging bits of scintillating "shop." I quote such fragrant specimens as these: "At last we've got old D.A.D.O.S. on the hop." . "They say it was a most shambolic op." "He puffed so much he could not score an inner.". . . This is one bar 1 did not want to prop. I wish the Major would go in to dinner. f My stomach lives upon its memories . . . "NotSmythe? He looks hand-knitted !
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: shambolic

Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:42 am

Just for general information:

Ken referenced Erik's post from way back when. In fact, the post was from far wayer back when than 2004. The very earliest incarnation of the Wordwizard clubhouse did not timestamp any of the posts, although some members occasionally used to date their posts. When I converted the database, I had to provide dates for the several tens of thousands of posts, so I simply chose a random starting date for the first post in the database and incremented that evenly up to the date the new forum was launched. This preserved the order of the post, but the date shown has no relation to the real date of the post. I would guess that that particular post dates way back to the late 1990s.

The original database also failed to store the user names correctly, which is why they are all assigned to the users "Archived Topic" or "Archived post".

Quite frankly, the original design was, well, shambolic...
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: shambolic

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:55 pm


Thanks for pointing that out. I got a bit paranoid about that and so have dated all my postings since then, which is probably unnecessary, but I do it anyway out of habit and just in case.

Ken — January 9, 2018 :)

Re: shambolic

Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:37 pm

Anybody nostalgic for those days can have a look at the Wayback machine: ... /index.htm
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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