If You Remember Y2K, Oxford’s Word of the Year Probably Makes You Feel Old
Well, Oxford has released its word of the year, and it’s rizz. If you’re not worried about turning an English essay in on time, you may be wondering what rizz means, and, well, the answer still probably won’t satisfy you.
I never realized that there was an “Oxford’s-word-of-the-year-doesn’t-apply-in-any-context-to-your-life” point of aging, and yet, here we are. Rizz. The word of the year is rizz. Can you imagine 30 years from now 2023’s word of the year showing up in a spelling bee and the contestant buys themselves time by asking for the etymology? Use in a sentence? How would you even begin with that jumping-off point?!
According to CNN, a notoriously hip publication,”rizz” first rose to prominence because of Tom Holland (of all people) in this Buzzfeed video:
Frankly, this video just reminds me why my (millennial) Spider-Man will always be Tobey Maguire, because what in the hell is he saying there? Also, am I so old that I didn’t know Tom Holland was a cultural trendsetter? I think of him as the latest in a long line of Spider-Mans. I had no idea he had the kind of social cache that could influence the dictionary. Next, you’ll be telling me the proverbial kids still don’t jam out to Crazy Town’s “Butterfly“!
Until now, I was only vaguely familiar with this word because one of my friend’s kindergarteners was described as having “rizz” by a teenager and I had to stop and get a definition because this word (like basically all English words, really) is utter nonsense. Rizz is short for charisma. It’s defined by the Oxford as: “style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”
Look, as a geriatric millennial, I’m a forever renter, but if I had a lawn, I’d be yelling at everyone to get off it right now. I feel old, and this is simply too much information in one setting. I now have to readjust my entire worldview: Tom Holland has enough social power to influence the word of the year, which is rizz. A word I know in my heart that I, a woman in her (very) late thirties, would be absolutely ridiculous to use in any setting other than to utter the sentence: “I can’t get over the fact the word of the year is ‘rizz.'”
You may be wondering what the other finalists for Word of the Year were. They included Swiftie (a fan of Taylor Swift, obviously. I walk that walk every day) and situationship (a relationship that isn’t clearly defined). For what it’s worth, I think the shortlisted word “parasocial” should have won. As defined by the Oxford University Press, parasocial means:
Designating a relationship characterized by the one-sided, unreciprocated sense of intimacy felt by a viewer, fan, or follower for a well-known or prominent figure (typically a media celebrity), in which the follower or fan comes to feel (falsely) that they know the celebrity as a friend.
Maybe that’s because parasocial seems like a word that has staying power, but I also know, deep in my soul, it’s also because it’s a word I wouldn’t look ridiculous and out-of-touch using since I understand its proper context. Do I, who saw Titanic multiple times in the theater in 1997, have any idea how to use the word “rizz” in a sentence that wouldn’t elicit laughter from people who actually do? No. Absolutely not.
The nice thing about my age is that at least I probably wouldn’t care if they laughed. I’m used to being laughed at—I am an elder millennial forged in the fires of pencil-thin overplucked eyebrows, unblended self-tanner, bleached-out highlights, and a fancy synthetic fabric “going out top”—my generation is battle-hardened. Or it could just be the obscene amount of hair products we used to get our hair spiky back in the day that make us feel hard, I don’t know. I doubt we were ever able to get all those chemicals off us, to be honest.
Regardless, rizz is, in the very least, here to stay for a little while. Use it how you will. I won’t mock you. I may ask you what it means in whatever context you’re using because I still don’t quite get it, but then again, I have strong opinions about what “on a break” meant in the context of Ross and Rachel. My time as the confounding youth of the world is over. I shall graciously pass the baton, and hold on to my own, deeply outdated millennial slang. If you don’t like it, well, talk to the hand.
(Featured Image: NBC Universal)
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