Using the Oxford Word of the Year to Sound Smarter

By Greg Schwem | January 12th, 2024

Get ready, world, a new, ‘rizz-ful’ me is headed your way

man with wine and rizz aspirations. Евгений Полишко. Article on "Ritz" as the Oxford word of the year

Using the Oxford word of the year can surely make one sound smarter, right? Humorist Greg Schwem puts the theory to the test with the 2023 word, “rizz.”

Forget weight loss. My 2024 New Year’s resolution is to sound um … wait, uh … the word is on the tip of my tongue … sound …


Time is of the essence; right now some 13-year-old with an artificial intelligence voice cloning tool is probably doing it for me. I don’t want to see, and hear, myself on TikTok spewing all kinds of malarkey that I know never came out of my mouth.

OK, “malarkey” is probably not the best word to use if one wants to sound smart … wait, if one wants to sound shrewd and nimble-witted. There, that’s better. Thank you, Google Dictionary. Instead, any chance I get, I vow to pepper my conversations with “rizz.”

Defined as, “the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner,” rizz is the Oxford University Press Word of the Year.

As each year draws to a close, I look forward to the word of the year reveal as much as I look forward to traffic-free expressways. I’m not sure why Oxford gets to choose the word; I’ve been to Oxford University, and I couldn’t understand what anybody was saying, even though that may be due to my difficulty in deciphering strong English accents. That’s why I quickly lost interest in “Ted Lasso.” It’s also why I will probably never date a British lady; constantly saying, “Can you repeat that?” is hardly rizz-like.

In years past, inserting the word of the year into casual conversation has proven quite easy. According to Oxford University Press, the word is chosen based on the “ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” In 2013 that word was “selfie.” Even my 88-year-old mother has used that one.

Selfie tips from a millennial to a baby boomer

Going back further, 2005 was a simple year, times two, as Oxford chose words for both the U.K. and U.S. dictionaries. The Brits were gifted with “sudoku” while we Yanks received “podcast.” Kudos to Mom for embracing one of those words. I’ll let you, the reader, guess which one.

I have used “toxic,” the 2018 winner, multiple times this year. Perhaps that’s due to my impending divorce. Sadly, I struck out last year, failing to call out myself, or anybody for that matter, as entering “goblin mode.” The phrase which loosely is defined as giving one license to reject societal norms and embrace what, to the user, “feels right,” was the 2022 winner.

Rizz seemed like a perfect word to include in my online dating profile. “Funny, athletic and unlimited rizz” should generate some “likes” and “swipe rights” from members of the opposite sex.

One would think.

Instead, I got a lot of puzzled emojis and “???” responses.

Maybe I needed to speak the word, as opposed to writing it.

“That’s some serious rizz you have going,” I said to the woman who I met in my condominium’s lobby.

“I beg your pardon?” she asked, before checking her phone and dashing out the door.

Well, maybe I needed more time to explain what I meant. UberEats delivery drivers are always so rushed.

After a few more failed attempts, I started to realize that, as a 61-year-old man, my best rizz days may be behind me. But I have a whole year to remedy the situation. I will eat healthier, work out more and get more sleep, all of which should increase my rizz factor. Then, I will unleash my rizz qualities on an attractive woman who, knowing the word’s definition, will tell me she’s feeling serious rizz vibes, courtesy of me.

Together we will go back to her place, where we will spend the rest of the evening playing Sudoku and listening to podcasts.

Thank you, Oxford.

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Visit Greg on the web at

© 2024 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Like laughing? Check out more Schwem, Boomer articles on laughter or the baby boomer humor of Randy Fitzgerald.

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