“Oxford’s Word of the Year: ‘Rizz'”

Oxford University Press, renowned for its scholarly contributions and the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary, has officially acknowledged a new addition to its lexicon: ‘rizz’. This term, reflecting Gen Z or perhaps Gen Alpha slang, signifies “style, charm, or attractiveness” and also implies the capacity to allure a romantic or sexual partner. Selected as Oxford’s 2023 Word of the Year, ‘rizz’ triumphed over contenders like situationship, prompt, de-influencing, and Swiftie.

The Emergence of ‘Rizz’

Although ‘rizz’ made its debut in 2022, it gained widespread attention in June following actor Tom Holland’s statement in a Buzzfeed interview: “I have no rizz whatsoever. I have limited rizz.” This declaration sparked a plethora of memes, elevating the word’s usage by nearly 15 times compared to the previous year, as per Oxford’s data. Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, emphasized how social media has rapidly accelerated language evolution, contributing to ‘rizz’s’ rise.

Selection Process and Criteria

Oxford’s Word of the Year is determined by scrutinizing over 22 billion words sourced from English-speaking news outlets, aiming to capture the essence and preoccupations of the preceding year while holding potential for enduring cultural significance. The selection process has transformed into a lexicographical spectacle resembling a reality show in recent times.

Public Involvement and Final Selection

Last year, public voting determined the winner (‘Goblin mode’ took the spotlight in 2022). This year, the public engaged in cutting down the shortlisted terms through head-to-head thematic pairings. From these interactions (with 30,000 people participating), Oxford’s team finalized the selection, ultimately narrowing down to a showdown between ‘Swiftie’ and ‘rizz’.

Insights into ‘Rizz’ and ‘Swiftie’

Grathwohl highlighted ‘rizz’s’ unique features, particularly its status as a verb (“rizz it up” denotes charming someone), showcasing potential linguistic versatility. Additionally, ‘Swiftie’ demonstrates how ‘fanalects’—languages formed among fans—have expanded beyond niche forums due to increased sharing avenues.

Language and Technology

The growing presence of terms like ‘prompt’ (an A.I. instruction) reflects how specialized vocabulary can infiltrate mainstream discourse, catalyzed by widespread conversations around generative A.I. after ChatGPT’s 2022 release. Grathwohl hinted at the potential role of machine learning in future word selections, acknowledging the efficiency of language models in data analysis.

Oxford’s exploration of linguistic evolution showcases not just the evolving language but also the interplay between culture, technology, and social dynamics, resonating with the spirit of each passing year.

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