The cost-of-living crisis has wormed its way into our grocery prices, our wallets and our conversations – and now it’s weaselling into our dictionaries, too. Macquarie Dictionary has declared “cozzie livs” (a play on “cost of living”) its 2023 word of the year.
Despite being the type of abbreviation that seems designed to be pronounced in an Aussie accent (it sits quite happily next to Australianisms like sickie, trackie daks and shoey), the phrase originated in the UK, which is enduring its own cozzie livs crisis.
“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,” wrote Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year committee. “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?”
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The committee also selected two honourable mentions, both of which reflect the times we’re in. There’s “blue-sky flood”, which the dictionary defines as “a flood in low-lying areas caused by the flow of floodwater which has made its way from higher ground after the cessation of substantial floodwater”. In its judgment, the committee said the term resonates beyond its literal meaning, and could be understood as a reference to the “time bomb we’re all sitting on with climate change”. The other honourable mention is “algospeak”, which refers to innocuous coded words used in place of sexual or violent words that may be picked up by AI moderators (for example “seggs” in place of “sex” and “unalive” in place of “dead”).
Other shortlisted words included “angry water” (carbonated water), “gravy day” (December 21, in reference to Paul Kelly’s Christmas anthem How to Make Gravy) and “rizz”, a shortened version of charisma, which was named the 2023 Oxford Word of the Year.
This year’s People’s Choice winner also speaks to the zeitgeist: generative AI. Macquarie defines it as “an artificial-intelligence application which is capable of producing new content, such as text, images, videos, etc., through use of machine learning”.
“Unlike many other previous People’s Choice winners, generative AI isn’t a clever or humorous construction, but it has touched a nerve,” said the committee. “A clear winner, it shows that AI is figuring prominently in our minds this year.”
“Rizz” was also a runner-up for People’s Choice, as was “skimpflation”, defined as “a reduction in the quality or availability of a product or service despite the cost to the customer remaining the same, as by reducing the number of service staff or the frequency of a service, or by using lower-quality ingredients in a product”.