2023 WOTYs, stage 1

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Choices for the 2023 Word Of The Year are starting to come out —

  1. The Macquarie Dictionary chose cozzie livs ;
  2. Merriam-Webster chose authentic;
  3. Oxford University Press has announced their choice, but it's "UNDER EMBARGO until 00.01 GMT Monday 4 December 2023".
    So we'll let you in on the secret tomorrow… [Update — it's rizz …]

I'd never heard of cozzie livs, and this may be more than just because I'm out of touch with Australian culture. According to Megan Doherty in the Canberra Times (12/1/2023):

I'm starting to lose the will to live each time the Macquarie Dictionary releases its word of the year. First up, it's rarely a word, but a phrase. But phrase of the year just doesn't have the same ring to it.

And the chosen word/phrase seems to becoming increasingly obscure and, how do I put this? NEVER. UTTERED. BY. ANYONE. EVER.

Ben Zimmer has argued (I think persuasively) that "The 'Word of the Year' need not be a word" (11/23/2011), and so I've got no problem with cozzie livs having a space in the middle. But I do wonder how widely it was actually used Down Under.

Of course the O.G. WOTY selection will take place at the American Dialect Society meeting in January — and we can count on Ben Zimmer to tell us about it, as he has in the past.

Update — in the comments, Ben Zimmer adds that "Collins went with AI, while Cambridge also followed the AI theme with hallucinate. (And Macquarie's 'People's Choice' is generative AI.)"



  1. Jim Breen said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 8:22 pm

    I've lived in Australia for most of my 76 years, and I've never heard of "cozzie livs". I had to go to the Macquarie site to find out what it meant. It might be more common in Sydney (they talk funny up there.)

  2. Chips Mackinolty said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 9:06 pm

    Agree with @Jim Breen. If anything "cozzie/cossie" refers to "swimming constumes".

  3. Jim Breen said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 9:12 pm

    > "cozzie/cossie" refers to "swimming constumes".

    But not in Sydney, where they are called "swimmers".

  4. JPL said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 9:16 pm

    A response and suggestion to Megan Doherty:

    Alternatively or in addition, how about "old word that had fallen into desuetude, but could still be useful and in fact has been noticed in last year's fiction or poetry more than once by those who read these things of the year"? (The main criterion would be the word's (well-established) degree of interestingness, including strangeness; norms of course would have to be developed to enable the principled making of such judgments. This year's moderator and judge would be Eley Williams. ("Number of lookups" would not be a criterion.))

  5. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 1:08 am

    A couple of other choices from dictionary publishers: Collins went with AI, while Cambridge also followed the AI theme with hallucinate. (And Macquarie's "People's Choice" is generative AI.)

    If you'd like to submit your own nominations to the American Dialect Society's WOTY selection, see the info here. (Direct link to Google Form: https://bit.ly/23WOTYNOMS)

  6. Geoffrey Dawson said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 3:06 am

    "cossie Liv's" sounds totally fake. I can't imagine any context in which the bizarre contrast of meaning and register would be plausible. Chatting around the barbecue: "G'day, mate. How's the cossie liv's been treating you lately?" Yeah no.
    General caution on the meme of "colourful Aussie language": in the lists of Australian slang that you'll find on the web, probably three quarters of the entries are rare and archaic, and most of the rest were invented by comedian Barry Humphries (floruit late 20th century, god rest his wicked soul). I guess that conversation around the water cooler is probably much the same as anywhere.

  7. Andreas Johansson said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 3:39 am

    I'm probably just out of the loop as usual, but I had the impression that people were more concerned with "authentic" a few years ago than now.

  8. Rob Grayson said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 3:48 am

    The Oxford Word of the Year has now been revealed, and it's (drum roll… wait for it…): rizz.

    Apparently it's a contraction of charisma and means "style, charm, or attractiveness, and the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner".

    I've never heard of it until now.

    (Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-67602699)

  9. Peter Taylor said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 5:45 am

    Am I overlooking something, or does the Macquarie blog post not define any of the terms it references except algospeak? The statement that cozzie livs comes from the UK and the hint that it relates to "a major social and economic problem" is enough for me to deduce that it abbreviates either cost of living or cost of living crisis (which is certainly a phrase I've heard/seen a lot in UK media this year), but I'm still not clear as to which.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 6:22 am

    When I was growing up, we called 'em swimming / bathing suits / trunks, and all the possibilities sounded funny to me.

    I don't know what to call them now.

  11. Yuval said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 6:45 am

    @Rob: pretty sure it was nominated at ADS either last year or the year before.

  12. Nathan said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 6:46 am

    I'm an American who's surely ignorant of the slang of other English-speaking countries, but I don't even recognize the pattern exemplified by "cozzie livs". The link compares it with "menty b" and "locky d", which are equally unknown to me.

    Does American English slang do anything like this at all?

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 7:29 am

    I still call them "swimming trunks", although the alternative "budgie smugglers" does have a certain appeal …

  14. Marion Owen said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 9:35 am

    I'm from the UK, and though I'm much too old to use most of these expressions, 'cozzie livs' is definitely 'cost of living'. The pattern seems productive. Last year we had 'platty jubes', or the Platinum Jubilee.

  15. unekdoud said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 9:42 am

    @Peter Taylor: Click through the first two links (shortlist and longlist) in the Macquarie post to see the definitions.

    "Crash blossom" is in the shortlist, but it's not more 2023 than most other terms there.

  16. Sally Thomason said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 10:58 am

    Nobody who's likely to read Language Log should be surprised if any WOTY selection is new to them: wrong generation(s). When I was teaching an undergraduate Words class regularly, and reprising (in January) the American Dialect Society's WOTY competition from the early-January Linguistic Society meeting, my students were routinely puzzled by nominees that supposedly achieved prominence in the preceding year. "But that wasn't NEW this past year! It's OLD!" – their typical reaction. When we redid a WOTY, or rather Word of the Semester, competition in class, the winner was almost always something that wasn't (yet) on the ADS's WOTY radar. Undergraduates — who are still in the prime slang-creating age range — are a relatively tiny minority of attendees at Linguistic Society meetings, and they aren't very vocal at the ADS's dramatic closing WOTY event.

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 11:25 am

    Marion — "Last year we had 'platty jubes', or the Platinum Jubilee". Hmm. Ant queried my use of "we" in an earlier thread, and here I must repeat his implied question — what are the key demographics identifying "we" in your context ? A question from a UK resident of some 76+ years who has never encounted either expression.

  18. Nancy Friedman said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 11:29 am

    Oxford’s choice, “rizz,” made it to the finals of the . American Dialect Society’s 2022 WotY vote. (The winner was “ussy.”)


  19. Philip Taylor said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 4:13 am

    My mind keeps returning to the title of this thread. Why "WOTYs" ? No-one would say "word of the years", "word of the year" is not normally pronounced /wɒ·tiː/ (well, not in my experience), so why is the abbreviation of the plural "WOTYs" and not "WsOTY" ?

  20. rosie said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 6:26 am

    Why "WOTYs" ? Because it's the plural of WOTY. If a singular phrase has a short form, and we need a short form for the plural, we don't pluralise that phrase and then shorten it, we pluralise the phrase's short form. Hence why members of Parliament are MPs (not MsP) and cellular automata are CAs.

  21. Philip Taylor said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 7:45 am

    I am sadly forced to agree, Rosie. I can find only one counter-example with a quick search — "M's.P. who were to make parliamentary questions take several steps forward".

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    December 6, 2023 @ 7:54 am

    Also perhaps worth noting that "FGCsM" ("Field General Courts Martial"), "GCsM ("General Courts Martial") and SGCsM ("Summary General Courts Martial") are all attested, as are "Brigs. Gen" (Brigadiers General), "Lts.-Col" ("Lieutenants-Colonel"), "O's.C " ("Officers Commanding") and "Sgts.Maj" ("Sergeants Major").

  23. JPL said,

    December 8, 2023 @ 9:40 pm

    From the Cambridge Dictionary website:
    'When an artificial intelligence (= a computer system that has some of the qualities that the human brain has, such as the ability to produce language in a way that seems human) hallucinates, it produces false information.'

    The latest version of the chatbot is greatly improved but it will still hallucinate facts.

    The Cambridge Dictionary's new "definition" of (a new sense of) the existing word 'hallucinate' is problematic, because: 1) It is an example of usage of the word and does not have the form of a definition in the usual sense; 2) The example (the attempted definition) attempts to refer to an intentional object ("hallucinates") that does not in fact exist; what it does is to use a metaphorical expression to describe the illusion experienced by the human reader, produced in response to the automatically generated text. "Hallucinating" is not something the computer system itself is doing. (For the human reader, having that kind of experience could be described as "hallucinating" in the traditional sense of the word: having a "hallucination" that there is a human intelligence with a human intention behind the text, when in fact there is none.)

    The other sentence above is an example of the usage of the word in its new sense. While people probably say things like this, it is not expressed well. The phenomenon that sentence is trying to describe is one where the chatbot produces a text that seems to the human reader to have been produced with descriptive intent, but where the human-interpreted meaning of the text has to be judged as descriptively false. The expression using 'hallucinate' could be OK as a metaphor, but what is "hallucinated" are not properly called "facts", since they are objects which are not factually "there".

    So when an AI system produces a text that has the grammatical form of a declarative sentence that is interpreted by the human reader pragmatically as having the form of an empirical description, and where that description is judgable as empirically false, the machine can be said to be "hallucinating". The machine is not seeing anything in the world; it has no capacity for intentionality; it has no system of semantic categories: these are all going on in the human readers. Maybe you could consider the chatbot as describing a possible world; whether it's the real one is to be determined.

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