Did you know about the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2023? It’s rizz.
As in, having what a potential partner wants: “he’s got rizz,” or “she rizzed him.”
Never heard of it? Me neither. Apparently, the decision to use it as word of the year led to a spate of Google searches. Which leads me to wonder: how does it become word of the year, if no one has ever heard of, or used it?
I love words and could definitely publish one each year. My own creation for 2023 was “ginormity.” As in, “that cat was incredible in both attitude and ginormity.” A take on the word ginormous (which, sadly, I did not invent). If anyone argued they’d never heard of it, so it should not be word of the year, how would that be any different than rizz?
Likely, there are actual criteria for the word-of-the-year selection at Oxford; I did not research the topic. There’s probably an application process. And a fee. And, maybe because it’s Oxford, the word choices are British slang that we don’t use here, like slagging or swotting. Although fun to consider, it’s also marginally annoying to feel that these decisions about my own language are extremely arbitrary.
Maybe it all has to do with youth. Adolescents constantly develop their own slang, to perplex the older generation(s); new words creating a way to confuse parents, or make them seem incredibly stupid, both surely the goals of teens everywhere. Currently, if it’s sick or gross, it’s good. If it took a hot second, it took a long time. You get the idea. Plus, all terms are contextual: when my husband and I picked up the term “on fleek,” we were constantly told we were using it incorrectly, even though it felt like we had imitated the kids’ use perfectly. Fortunately, my husband has taught me to live for the eye roll, which makes incorrect usage much more fun, if not the original goal.
One could argue that new vernacular should not be used by people over fifty anyway, unless being ironic; I’m sure rather than seeming “cool” we just appear to be trying too hard. In fact, there’s probably a cooler word than cool, I just don’t know what it is!
All this to say, words are being developed all the time. Why not make your own? Don’t let the Oxford Dictionary people tell you whether or not you’ve got rizz.
(Author's note: the original version of this post spelled rizz incorrectly, so I've fixed that. Also, I've learned that rizz is short for "charisma," which makes a lot more sense. So, maybe I was actually the only one who didn't understand rizz. I'm sure any under-50 readers got a good laugh out of this post. If so, you're welcome!)
Hi, I'm Karen. This space is a chance for me to get some of those notebook sessions out there: Motherhood, medicine, writers and writing, the state of the world. Non-published, sometimes non-polished, just a chance to open a discussion. Let me know what you think!