Chances are, if you’ve got “rizz,” you already know it. At a minimum, the people around you know it. But do you know if you — and your organization — embody the word “authentic”?
These two words have been on a lot of people’s lips and typing/texting fingers lately, after being selected as the 2023 word of the year by the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Merriam-Webster, respectively. Wait, actually … reverse that: These two words were selected for that designation because they’ve been on a lot of people’s lips and typing/texting fingers lately.
Here’s what Oxford University Press, publisher of the venerable OED, had to say about its selection: “Rizz is a colloquial word, defined as style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.” The word — attributed to Switch and YouTube sensation Kai Cenat — is a shorter, and cooler, way of saying “charisma.” And it’s blown up on TikTok, other social media and in everyday conversations over the past year.
If you’ve got rizz, it’s likely that you’ve also been told you have “game” or “swag” in the fairly recent evolution of popular slang. And if you’re of a certain age (cough, me, cough), the word probably brings to mind Rizzo from “Grease” who, let’s face it, undoubtedly had rizz. (Seriously, why did so many viewers want to be the doe-eyed stick-in-the-mud Sandy when Rizzo clearly had “it”?)
While “authentic” doesn’t have the obvious, well, rizz of its word-of-the-year companion, it certainly has relevance to our current times. With artificial intelligence (AI — now there’s a word/acronym that’s soared in usage over the past year or two) at the forefront of people’s minds, coupled with a seemingly ramped-up, steady stream of BS coming from politicians, celebrities and dodgy corporate executives, the average person is searching for an authentic experience now more than ever.
The teams at Oxford and Webster use a variety of methods to determine which word best captures our attention each year — data-crunching, search histories from their sites and broader internet searches, trends seen by their researchers and lexicologists, and so on.
Other words that made the short list as arbiters of English usage trends include: “situationship,” that not-quite-relationship gray area that so many modern daters find themselves in; “deepfake,” coined to describe the convincing and scary manipulation of video and audio recordings; and, naturally, “Swifties,” for the culture- and economy-impacting army of Taylor Swift fans.
The annual selection of a year’s most influential, popular and overused terms reminds us of just how much power words have. They can hype something up, crush a person’s spirits, put the fear of God into you, distill complex feelings into a single concept, rally supporters, soothe babies and comfort the wounded, and so, so much more.
While we can’t help you with your rizz (that’s on you, player), here are a few quick thoughts about making sure that your communication is authentic.
Be as direct as possible, whenever possible: Flowery language and verbal gymnastics tend to confuse people, honk them off or delay the inevitable need to say what you really mean down the road — or all three. When communicating information, especially complex or uncomfortable information, try to be as clear and compassionate as possible, and spare your readers or listeners the euphemisms and hem-hawing.
Don’t say it unless you mean it: This gets right to the heart of the concept of being authentic. If you don’t intend to follow through with it — and have a plan to do so — why say it to your employees or clients? If you’re writing a corporate memo, giving a speech or speaking with a reporter, aim for nothing less than 100% accuracy. Reject any impulse to guesstimate, pontificate about a trending topic on which you have no actual interest or skin in the game, or fudge the facts. In the same vein, many a speech or company communication has been diluted by creators trying to “sound smart” or tuned in to what’s trending, rather than just saying what they actually mean, clearly.
Use discretion when using discretion: Of course, there are plenty of scenarios in which you can’t, or shouldn’t, offer much communication. If, for example, there’s pending or potential litigation; an ongoing regulatory or police investigation; or a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices that you don’t want your competitors to be privy to, then discretion is absolutely the best course. But oftentimes, the cloak of mystery used with your internal teams, customers, vendors and so on is just unnecessary and sometimes has the opposite effect of your intention.
The last word
Who knows what words will dominate the collective mindset in 2024. And who knows how long it’ll be before “rizz” grows dowdy. But one thing is certain: Being authentic in your communications will never go out of style.