Q&A: 2023 Words of the Year

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, can we have a word…

Q: Hi AWC, it’s the end of another year.

A: How very perceptive.

Q: I thought to mark the occasion, we could look at all the ‘words of the year’ that have been announced in recent weeks.

A: That sounds like fun. Where shall we start?

Q: How about with Australia’s very own Macquarie Dictionary?

A: Oh, umm… can we come back to that one?

Q: Ahhh, sure. Merriam-Webster?

A: Good choice! Their word for 2023 was AUTHENTIC – most likely in response to all the talk of artificial intelligence. In the face of deep fake technology and misinformation, it has also become an important word.

Q: Yeah, it seems like a pretty important one. The whole “AI” thing has been huge this year. Did any dictionary name that as their word?

A: Yep, Collins Dictionary went with that – claiming that AI is considered to be the next great technological revolution, seeing rapid development and conversation in the past year.

Q: You’re not wrong. I hear they’ve remixed Paul Simon’s ‘80s hit song as “YOU CAN CALL ME AI” not “AL”.

A: No they haven’t.

Q: Okay, but it would be funny if they had. 

A: By the way, also on the Collins shortlist was “Bazball” – a term given to the English test cricket team’s hard-hitting approach, modelled by their coach Brendon “Baz” McCullum. They also had “Nepo Baby” for a person – especially in the entertainment industry – whose career had been advanced by having famous parents.

Q: Any other AI-related words?

A: Yeah, Cambridge Dictionary put forward “hallucination” as their word for 2023. This word has been adopted for when generative AI tools get the facts WRONG – inventing new “truths” based on incorrectly interpreting data. Anyone who has used a form of ChatGPT or similar may have come across examples of this.

Q: What about the Oxford Dictionary?

A: Their word of the year was “RIZZ”. As in short for “charisma”. It peaked in popularity thanks to a Tom Holland interview in which it was used multiple times.

Q: SpiderRizz!

A: Exactly. By the way, Oxford claimed that it was unusual for a word to be shortened to just the middle part, with other examples including “fridge” (refrigerator) and “flu” (influenza).

Q: Did they have a shortlist too?

A: They did – and it included words like “Swiftie” (Taylor Swift fan) and “De-influencing” (discouraging people from buying particular products).

Q: Okay, we can’t put it off any longer – what about the Aussie examples?

A: Well the first one is quite celebratory. The Australian National Dictionary Centre put “Matilda” as their top word – in response to the nation-uniting run of the women’s football team at the World Cup earlier this year.

Q: Ah yes, those Matilda’s had a lot of rizz.

A: Indeed.

Q: And the Macquarie Dictionary?

A: They went with “cozzie livs”.

Q: Sorry?

A: Cozzie. Livs.

Q: Please explain.

A: It’s apparently short for “cost of living” – something certainly on the minds of many Australians in 2023.

Q: Sure, but I have never once heard anyone say “cozzie livs”!?

A: And that’s part of the irony. It seems it was publications in the UK that originally decided that terms like “cozzie livs”, “gendy nooch” (gender neutral) and “murder noodle” (a snake!) sounded very Australian. And Australia – or at least, its dictionary – agreed. 

Q: So weird. Sounds more like a zombie swimming costume. “Cozzie livs! Runnnnn!”

A: Haha. For the record, the Macquarie Dictionary people’s choice was “Generative AI”.

Q: Much better. That certainly would have been more authentic and had more rizz…

Do you have a question you’d like us to explore? Email it to us today!


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