If you had to choose, what would your word of the year be? The word that best describes the past 12 months in your world? It would certainly be a way to very quickly get a sense of how your year went, that’s for sure.
If the word that immediately pops to mind is “humbug” or “gongshow” or, say, “hellacious” that might be a bit of a giveaway that good old 2023 wasn’t perhaps your favorite year. Like when Queen Elizabeth herself (R.I.P.) went all Latin when she declared 1992 an “annus horribilis”.
However, if you said something like: “s’wonderful”, “s’marvelous”, “s’paradise” you would obviously be quite pleased with the comings and goings of this year or you would be quoting a popular song from 1927 that was written by George Gershwin and sung by everyone from Doris Day to Dean Martin. (Readers under a certain age might find these references quite obscure and baffling. That’s why we have Google. Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait…)
Ok, now that we’re all on the same page (literally) it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know there is actually an Official Word of the Year. Thing is, there are several Official WOYs on account of different esteemed entities determine their own WOYs in some sort of nerdy lexicographical game of I’m Smarter Than You Scrabble. For example the famous OED (Oxford English Dictionary) chose “goblin mode” for its word of the year in 2022 and is currently still taking votes on what this year’s official word will be. Since nobody knows what ‘goblin mode’ means and that WOY is actually two words the dictionary dweebs at the OED have probably all been fired and nobody is around to count the votes.
The other heavy hitter word-wise is the Merriam Webster Dictionary and they already have announced their 2023 choice for word of the year. Their choice is based on the statistics of how many times words have been searched on the interweb. Last year, their Word of the Year was “gaslighting” which doesn’t really have anything to do with lighting gas but has everything to do with driving a person nuts. And speaking of nuts, let’s look at some of the choices for the MWD WOY 2023.
How about “rizz”? It was a big contender this year. Apparently, it’s slang for ‘charisma’ and I’m sure you’ve used it several times today already. I know I haven’t. Then there’s one of my personal favorites: “doppelganger”, because for sure somewhere out there there’s a human double exactly like each of us just hanging around and probably having a lot more fun than we are and probably a titch better looking. And here’s one for the times we live in: “deepfake”. With all the A.I. (Artificial Impudence) and digital voodoo out there who’s to say if Premiere D. Smith isn’t really D. Trump in disguise even though she has slightly better hair and hardly ever wears a red MAGA hat.
But the actual winner this year is a much more authentic word, because in fact, it actually is the word “authentic”. Sure, it’s not a very sexy word but the Word of the Year team at MWD says that with all the deepfakes and A.I. (see above), social media “post-truths” and ChatGPT that are infecting the world like a conspiracy theory pandemic, 2023 saw a “crisis of authenticity”. In other words, don’t believe what you hear, see or possibly even what you think. It’s probably not real, you can’t trust anything these days, and we all might as well just close our eyes, plug our ears and shout “blah blah blah blah” until we feel better about things.
Nothing is authentic anymore. Except doppelgangers of course. I can’t wait to meet mine.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.