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TWTS: The American Dialect Society's 2023 Word of the Year

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Soon after thousands of people gathered in New York’s Times Square to ring in 2024, more than 300 members of the American Dialect Society gathered at a hotel several blocks away for its 34th annual Word of the Year vote. Professor Anne Curzan was there and filled us in on the details.

Nominees for 2023’s Word of the Year included “ceasefire,” “Kenaissance,” and “stochastic parrot.” When it comes to the actual winner, there’s one small problem. This year’s winner contains an obscenity, so we’ve had to omit a few letters. We’re pretty sure you’ll be able to fill in the blanks.

The 2023 Word of the Year is “ensh---tification.” This term took off after author and journalist Cory Doctorow used it in a January 2023 poston his blog Pluralistic to describe the atrophy of digital platforms:

“Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. I call this “ensh---tification.”

Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS new words committee called “ens---tification “a sadly apt term for how our online lives have become gradually degraded. From the time that it first appeared in Doctorow’s posts and articles, the word had all the markings of a successful neologism, being instantly memorable and adaptable to a variety of contexts.”

To hear Professor Anne Curzan’s thoughts on this year’s winner and winners from other categories, listen to the audio above.

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Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.