Toronto Star ePaper

Embracing the ‘authentic’

In an age of deepfakes and post-truth, as artificial intelligence rose and Elon Musk turned Twitter into X, the Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2023 is “authentic.”

Authentic cuisine. Authentic voice. Authentic self. Authenticity as artifice. Lookups for the word are routinely heavy on the dictionary company’s site but were boosted to new heights throughout the year, editor at large Peter Sokolowski told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Sokolowski and his team don’t delve into the reasons people search for specific words. Rather, they chase the data on lookup spikes and world events that correlate. This was the year of artificial intelligence, but also a moment when ChatGPT-maker OpenAI suffered a leadership crisis. Taylor Swift and Prince Harry chased after authenticity in their words and deeds. Musk himself, at February’s World Government Summit in Dubai, urged leaders to “speak authentically” on social media by running their own accounts.

Merriam-Webster’s entry for “authentic” is busy with meaning. There’s “not false or imitation: real, actual.” There’s “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.” And, perhaps most telling, “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.”





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