What do you think of when you hear ‘AI’? Elon Musk hanging out with Rishi Sunak at Bletchley Park? Algorithms shaping our view of the world? Computers leading the destruction of the human race?
There’s no doubt it’s been a hot topic in 2023 – so much so that ‘AI’ has been named as Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year.
Now, we might quibble over whether a couple of initials actually equate to a word in the strictest sense, but let’s just go with it (remember, the robots are watching us. We don’t want to upset them). According to Collins, usage of the word has quadrupled over the past year, which helped it to earn the Word of the Year title.
AI? Let’s go!
If the speed of technological advancement has left you feeling a little bamboozled, let’s have a little recap. Collins defines AI as: ‘the modelling of human mental functions by computer programs’.
Sounds scary? Well, it’s not all bad. AI can help you find a recipe based on what’s left in your fridge before your next big food shop. It was used by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to create the Beatles’ final record Now and Then from an old John Lennon recording. It has the potential to revolutionise medicine, from identifying the cause and presence of diseases to creating personalised treatment options which offer the best chances for patients.
But given the rapid rate of advancement of AI over the past year, it’s also prompted a huge amount of anxiety, debate and scrutiny. So much so that major tech figures and world leaders united for the first AI Safety Summit at the start of November, to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid advancement of AI technology.
Whether you like it or not, it’s one of the most ubiquitous topics of the moment, which makes AI a worthy winner of Word of the Year.
Words reflect our reality
What’s so fascinating about the Word of the Year is that it offers a unique commentary on the way our lives evolve. When a new word enters the mainstream, it’s called a ‘neologism’ – something that reflects world events, cultural shifts and changing attitudes.
Looking through the Collins shortlist from 2023 is almost like a sneak peek at one of those end-of-the-year reviews that you get at Christmas. Here are some of the other contenders for Word of the Year:
Bazball (noun): A style of test cricket in which the batting side plays in a highly aggressive manner.
Deinfluencing (noun): The use of social media to warn followers to avoid certain commercial products, lifestyle choices, etc.
Nepo baby (noun): A person, especially in the entertainment industry, whose career is believed to have been advanced by having famous parents.
Ultra-processed (adjective): (of food) Prepared using complex industrial methods from multiple ingredients with little or no nutritional value.
Canon event (noun): An event that is essential to the formation of an individual’s character or identity.
Debanking (noun): The act of depriving a person of banking facilities.
Greedflation (noun): The use of inflation as an excuse to raise prices to artificially high levels in order to increase corporate profits.
Semaglutide (noun): A medication used to suppress the appetite and conrol high blood sugar.
ULEZ (acronym): Ultra-low emission zone: An area into which only vehicles that emit very little pollution are allowed to enter without paying a charge.
Over the past year, you might have noticed Ben Stokes and his team playing in a different way. Perhaps you’ve raised your eyebrows at the news that Buddy Oliver (son of Jamie) has landed a BBC cookery show. Maybe you’ve had a grumble about how your old car will need replacing due to new rules. Well, there’s a word for that.
The language of puzzles
Here at Puzzles HQ, we’re always keeping an eye on what’s in and what’s out in the world of words. This year, we introduced ‘ULEZ’ as a solution in some of our crosswords – so it was particularly pleasing to see it on the Collins Dictionary shortlist, given that it’s our dictionary of choice too.
Another term we’ve introduced is ‘ASMR’, an abbreviation of autonomous sensory meridian response, which is defined by Collins as ‘a pleasant tingling sensation experienced from the back of the head down to the spine, usually in response to an auditory or visual stimulus’. So now you know that it is actually ‘A Thing’ when a whispery Billie Eilish song gives you the shivers. It also might explain why your kids are obsessed with ‘oddly satisfying’ slime videos on social media.
Do you have any suggestions for your own word of the year? Drop us a line!