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Rizz, Barbenheimer and hallucination: the breakthrough words in the Guardian in 2023

Rizz, Barbenheimer and hallucination: the breakthrough words in the Guardian in 2023

Hallucination, Barbenheimer and acabó were among the new and breakthrough words of 2023, according to an analysis of the Guardian archive. And do you have “rizz”?

Dozens of new words appeared on the newspaper’s pages this year. And while the majority of these relate to people and placenames previously unrecorded on the news pages, some words were truly newly minted.

Foremost in this list was the unlikely phenomenon that was Barbenheimer, a portmanteau of two films released on the same day but light years apart in terms of content (the films were Barbie and Oppenheimer in case you spent July under a particularly large rock). Barbieland – although not a new entry – also surged in 2023.

“Rizz” – in the sense of charisma (the word is derived from the middle consonant of the word) – appeared on the Guardian pages for the first time this year, but went stellar when Tom Holland insisted he had none.

“I have no rizz whatsoever. I have limited rizz,” the Spider-Man actordeclared, spawning seemingly endless memes.

Other new words new to the Guardian’s UK news pages included “acabó”, which formed part of the hashtag #SeAcabó (in Spanish: “it’s over”).

The slogan, used by Alexia Putellas, a member of the Spanish World Cup winning football team, in solidarity with teammate Jenni Hermoso, the star forward who was kissed on the lips by the head of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales, during the medal ceremony. The comment, which neatly captured the sentiment of the backlash – not just against the incident but wider inequality between men’s and women’s football – spawned a hashtag and was widely compered to the #MeToo movement.

Others, although not entirely new, made it into the analysis in the form of “breakthrough words” – those which have appeared on the Guardian pages in the past but which skyrocketed this year as they gained popularity, or indeed, notoriety.

Several of these related to GenAI, among them the ChatGPT tool and the company which produced it, OpenAI, along with other tools such as Dall-E and BardAI.

More telling, perhaps of the dangers of the technology, was the explosion of the use of the word “hallucination”, defined by the Cambridge dictionary as false information produced by generative AI tools. The same publication bestowed the word with the dubious (for us) honour of being 2023’s word of the year.

Two Guardian pin-ups, Elon Musk and Boris Johnson, made individual contributions to this years’s list. Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter as X resulted in seemingly endless references to the clunky addition of “the social media platform formerly known as Twitter” in our news articles to both journalists’ and readers’ delight (sarcasm intended, Ed.).

Meanwhile, a neologism attributed to Johnson first appeared on the news pages in January of 2023, after he reportedly joked about being at “UK’s most unsocially distanced party” during lockdown. “Unsocially” peaked in frequency in March ahead of his appearance before MPs investigating whether he misled parliament over Partygate.

Figures also appeared including $787.5m, the settlement reached between the US news giant Fox and the voting equipment company Dominion in a defamation case as to whether the network and its parent company knowingly broadcast false and outlandish allegations that Dominion was involved in a plot to steal the 2020 US presidential election.

On the culture pages, the acronyms AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and WGA (Writers Guild of America) featured highly, reflecting the protracted nature of the Hollywood strikes this summer and the celebrity nature of its supporters who, according to Vulture, included a veritable A-Z of actors, comedians, writers and politicians.

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