Each December, a number of publishers and linguists announce their picks for word of the year.

For 2023, Merriam-Webster chose ‘authentic’: “not false or imitation”, “real”, “actual.”

Oxford University Press went with “rizz”. Derived from ‘charisma’, this slang word means “style, charm or attractiveness.” 

Meanwhile, the American Dialect Society selected “enshittification”. The term was coined by author Cory Doctorow, who used it to describe how digital platforms can become worse and worse.

A friend of mine summed up 2023 in another word. It’s less authentic rizz, more enshittification. Just a little simpler.


2023 was Ugly. It was a year of miscommunication, misunderstanding. Lost connections. Division. Talking (and often shouting) across each other. Ugliness was everywhere - political, financial, social. Global, regional, local, individual. 

For many of us, the ugliness of 2023 also had a sense of being untethered. Alas, this untethered feeling was not the type that evokes creative, connected, flow states. Instead, 2023’s version of untethered meant a feeling of detachment, being cut off, drifting away into the abyss of deep space. A lot of people floated closer darkness rather than light.

What of 2024?

There’s certainly the chance of more ugliness. We face ongoing wars, political unrest, deepfakes, and all the rest. 

But at a more micro and individual level, it’ll probably go one of two ways.

Many of us will stay in our foxholes. Keep our heads down. Be happy with average. Wait it out until the storms pass.

Self-preserve. Phone it in. Embrace mediocrity as a form of comfort and safety. 

And that’s just fine. It’s… ok.

But there’s another path. It’s not ok. And that’s the point. That’s the opportunity.

While the others sit in ‘ok’, you can go the other way.

Seize the initiative. Have a point of view. 

Go out on a limb. Look up and outwards.

Paint a more vivid picture. Go technicolour in a greyscale world.

Give the others something to believe in. Something to follow. Something that evokes ‘yes!’. Something that makes you and them - feeling positively untethered.

It doesn’t need to be ugly. It can be quite the opposite.

So, what’s the word?

Word of the year

Why this year will go one of two ways. And it doesn't need to get Ugly.

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