Rizz is it

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

Oxford has spoken. The word of the year (2023) is “rizz”. Apparently derived from the word “charisma”, rizz means to have style, charm or attractiveness (and maybe, for the lucky ones, all of the foregoing).

Rizz does not seem to have blessed my world yet. None of my friends have jabbered or chittered around me, littering my vocabulary universe with rizz. I likewise have not had the fortune of encountering rizz in the extensive publications I have plunged into, including the gossip rags and scandal sheets that sometimes (ahem) cross my desk.

At least, we now know what it is. We will not seem like backward dinosaurs when we finally encounter it. We would then possess literary or intellectual rizz, if not physical.

Rizz beat out another word I just learned this year, which is “situationship”. That one, I most roundly condemn, because not knowing what it meant before also meant that I had failed to diagnose an ongoing fling. Now that I do know what it means (an undefinable romantic relationship that desperately wants to stay undefined), I also do recognize (and bless) the fact that situationships should be thrown into the dustbin of history.

Situationships certainly don’t hold any rizz for me. I mean, whatever happened to MU (mutual understanding)? With MU, you knew where you stood. With a situationship, you just end up in a mess. Not a good place to be, so good thing it lost.

Also losing was “swiftie”, particularly dear only to Taylor Swift fans (and trust me, to the BTS Army or the hundreds of smaller fanships: they will not be happy if swiftie won while their own pop idol didn’t make the grade), and “prompt”, referring not to those who come in to a meeting on time, but to those guides for internet searches.

All hail “rizz”, now on the same level as goblin mode (last year’s winner, also the subject of a previous column, and still dear to my own heart). By the way, rizz has been linked to the classic movie “Grease”, where that slinky sexy character Rizzo is encountered (time to prompt the search button to locate this movie, where the situationship that Olivia Newton-John found herself in with John Travolta was dissected).

Merriam Webster, however, has crowned “authentic” as its word of the year. No, it’s not a new word, and yes, we all know, more or less, what it means. But apparently, in this era of deep fakes and artificial intelligence, to be authentic has acquired a deeper cachet. It has become infinitely desirable, more likely to sell products, content, or personalities.

Just about everyone is just being barraged with deception, with scams, and with lies, and so having authenticity results in trust. Perversely, the goal of content creators now is to be more authentic --so figure that out when we consider the fact that their angles, filters, edits, and curation are all not real-time real.

The Guardian notes that this perception obsession has spilled over to other dictionaries: Cambridge has chosen “hallucinate” as its word of the year, while Collin’s Dictionary chose “AI”. “In a polarized world, the dictionaries’ solidarity suggests there’s something we can all agree on: robots are terrifying. …AI is an obsession that seems to cross generations. Whether you’re a boomer or gen Z, OpenAI feels like a sign of change far beyond NFTs, the metaverse, and all the other fads we were told would transform humanity.”

If we ponder on that pronouncement for a second, that will flood with clarity the choice by The Economist of its own word of the year: “ChatGPT”. Yet another harbinger of doom (at least to writers), ChatGPT is an inauthentic derivative by AI that provides hallucinatory essays, scripts, and even legal pleadings filed in court (alas, the latter has resulted in sanctions on enterprising attorneys too lazy to do their own research, or too cheap to pay for great researchers and paralegals).

So here we are, ending 2023 with words people associate with computers, anchored on fear and uncertainty, and coloring our perception for the incoming year and our unfolding future. That holds no rizz, that’s for sure.

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