Oxford’s 2023 Word of the Year Is … ‘Rizz’

Grathwohl guessed, correctly, that the contest would ultimately come down to “Swiftie” vs. “rizz.” Which it did, but only after “de-influencing” (the practice of discouraging people from buying particular products, or reducing their consumption more generally) made a strong run at knocking out “Swiftie.”

As for “rizz,” Grathwohl said the word has some interesting features. Usually, shortened forms are taken from the start of a word (app, rhino) or the end (hood, bot). It’s more unusual, but not unheard of, for abbreviated forms to come from the middle (flu, fridge), he said.

He noted that “rizz” also gets used as a verb (as in to “rizz it up,” or charm someone). “As a word expands from one part of speech to another, that’s an indicator it might have some staying power,” he said.

And he had a friendly comment for Holland. “I hate to be a linguistic watchdog, but Tom should know that limited rizz is still rizz,” Grathwohl said. “He’s not being very precise.”

“Swiftie,” for all its overexposure, is also notable, Grathwohl said, for the way it illustrates how “fanalects”(languages that fans develop among themselves) take hold. Many never make it out of various subreddits. But now, with so many more ways to share, they can spread more easily.

In case you’re wondering: No, Taylor Swift and the supposedly rizz-challenged Tom Holland are not known to have officially dated. (Holland is happily in a relationship with Zendaya.) But today, everyone on Earth might feel like they’re in a parasocial situationship with Swift, whether they like it or not.

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