Macquarie Dictionary ignores AI in WOTY choice

I look forward to this time of year because many of the international dictionaries announce their words of the year (WOTY). Lexicographers (dictionary writers) try to pick neologisms (new words) or newly fashionable words that represent the important events, developments or preoccupations of the year.

Past WOTY winners

During the coronavirus the Oxford English Dictionaries (OED) chose vax as its WOTY for 2021 a shortening of vaccine or vaccination. Last year they chose GOBLIN MODE—behaviour which is “unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.

Macquarie Dictionary’s WOTY in 2022 was teal which summed up the disruption to Australia’s political system from the rise of the centrist political movement.

Merriam-Webster (the leading US dictionary) in 2022 had gaslighting, a colloquial term for manipulating somebody to cause them to question their own beliefs.

WOTY 2023

This year the Collins Dictionary chose AI as their WOTY 2023. AI (artificial intelligence) describes “the modelling of human mental functions by computer programs”.

The Cambridge Dictionary (UK) named hallucinate its WOTY 2023. They now define it with respect to AI—“when an artificial intelligence hallucinates, it produces false information”.

Merriam-Webster chose as its WOTY 2023 — authentic. They suggested online interest was “driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media”. A runner-up was deepfake, used to describe videos and photos that are digitally altered with AI. Again showing the concern over the difference between real and fake.

The Macquarie Dictionary People’s Choice WOTY 2023 was generative AI reflecting how artificial intelligence has come into Australian cultural life.

Macquarie Dictionary WOTY23

However, while nearly all international dictionaries are tuning in on AI, the winner of our Australian Macquarie Dictionary WOTY23 is … cozzie livs. When the muted applause dies, it is explained as an abbreviated form of the cost of living.

Apparently there was much “robust discussion” in the committee meeting. Here is their statement:

Although cozzie livs was coined in the UK, it has resonated soundly with Australians, with its -ie suffix and its clipped formation, reminiscent of menty B and locky D. And what could be a more Australian approach to a major social and economic problem than to treat it with a bit of humour and informality?

I have never heard of cozzie livs so I asked my Gen Z children—they looked at me blankly. Then I tried a quick survey using a Boolean word search on Google:

  • cozzie livs—76,500 hits
  • menty b (mental breakdown)—95,800 hits
  • locky d (lockdown)—13,100 hits
  • deepfake—79 million hits
  • AI—6 billion hits

We do know that the cost of living is cutting deep. However, the Macquarie Dictionary seems to be ignoring what has been defining people’s experience the most, which is the rapid integration of AI into our lives. I do wonder what happened in that meeting? Someone seems to have got their own way.