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Language — or rather text — played a key role in the recent high-profile departure of the president of Harvard University, Claudine Gay. The simple story is that Gay was found to have plagiarised other scholars’ work on multiple… Read More
This blog traditionally closes out the year by offering a round-up of the various dictionary Word of the Year nominations. Arguably the most prestigious WOTY award comes from the Oxford Dictionaries team, and the 2023 selection of rizz flummoxed your blog author so comprehensively that she needed the Christmas holidays to gather her thoughts. As a result, we are into 2024 before the WOTY round-up could be produced.
I’ve been surprised by WOTY choices in the past, but I’ve never encountered a winning word that was totally unknown to me before its triumph. I like to think I am sufficiently online and surrounded by youth to be in touch with the latest neologisms, but this one had passed me by. It is short for charisma, referring to ‘style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner’. Other than a sense of personal disappointment at failing to keep pace with the times, I won’t be joining GB News in accusing Gen Z of “ruining English language as ‘rizz’ crowned word of the year”. Instead, I will be sprinkling rizz into my quinquagenarian vocabulary thus likely ensuring its rapid fall from grace.
The other major dictionary nominations for 2023 WOTY probably won’t leave older blog readers feeling quite so discombobulated. However, there is a notable emphasis on technological developments and the way this is shaping our lives.
Collins Dictionary has AI as its 2023 winner, while Cambridge Dictionary and Dictionary.com (both of which use search trends to make their decision) give their WOTY award to hallucinate, which has acquired a novel meaning referring to the concept of AI hallucinations. This prompted Cambridge Dictionaries to add a new definition “When an artificial intelligence (= a computer system that has some of the qualities that the human brain has, such as the ability to produce language in a way that seems human) hallucinates, it produces false information.”
Our obsession with online culture is clear in some of the other shortlisted candidates. Both Oxford and Collins nominate de-influencing (persuading followers via social media to avoid certain products). And the term parasocial, originally coined in 1956, is elevated to a new significance in a world where access to well-known figures is easier than ever, thus creating the illusion of a relationship mediated via online networks.
The contemporary preoccupation with identity and the tension between our curated online lives and the real world is also reflected in the Merriam Webster WOTY winner authentic (with deep fake and dystopian also getting honourable mentions on the shortlist). But if you are looking for a more traditional motif for your annual lexicographic retrospective, Merriam Webster also includes coronation on its list, noting a spike in searches for this term in May 2023 with the crowning of King Charles III.
Finally, after an inglorious start with my ignorance of rizz, Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary offers redemption with its WOTY cozzie livs (slang for cost of living). This time my middle daughter can take credit for bringing me up to speed with the latest argot. I even have a Word document in my blog post drafts folder entitled “Cozzie livs guy.doc” with a half-written post about this novel linguistic phrase. Maybe my 2024 resolution should be to get that out there before it goes out of fashion.
Image source: Pixabay.com
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