The Word of the Year

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It’s that time of year again, when major dictionaries look into the past year to see what word emerges as marking something particularly significant about that year. I always look forward to this exercise, and I almost never can predict what the words of the year will be.

OED 2e Volumes lined up.jpg

This year I did make a guess that “hallucinate” would be one such word, and indeed that is the term chosen by both and Cambridge. Both dictionaries reported noting the new definition of “hallucinate” to indicate the mistakes, misinformation, or fabrications produced by generative AI programs. They go on to note that “AI hallucinations remind us that humans still need to bring their critical thinking skills to the use of these [AI[ tools. . . Human expertise is arguably more important than ever, to create the authoritative and and up-to-date information that LLMs can be trained on.” Cambridge also notes adding additional related words to its corpus, such as LLM (Large language models), GAI (generative AI), and GPT (ChatGPT). The Collins Dictionary group chose “AI” as their word of the year, because that technology has dominated so much of the news cycle. 

 But perhaps the most surprising, and intriguing, word of the year, “after 32,000 votes and a team of language experts’ advice,” is the Oxford English Dictionary’s choice of “rizz,” short for charisma, which originated in Black culture. The term went viral after TikToker Henry de Tolla used the phrase “Livvy rizzed up Baby Gronk” in a post, but was popularized by influencer Kai Cenat, who uses it frequently in his Twitch streams. In discussing “rizz,” Cenat says it’s when “you’re so slick with our words and what you’re saying to where the girl is ‘OK, who is this?’ Then you’re like ‘Yeah, I rizzed her up. I’ve got mad rizz.’” Got that? As near as I can tell, “to rizz” means to charm someone successfully. And, I suppose, “rizz,” like charisma, in some sense means the ability to do that. Hmm. . . 

Which of these words seems most likely to you to survive, and why? This is the time of year to ask our students this question, and to ask them what they would choose as word of the year. Right now, I’d have to go with something related to AI: how about you?

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.