This an “authentic” photograph of a squirrel. The real deal. The photograph is not a deepfake. Just ask the squirrel. He (she?) lives in the neighborhood. Really.

An authentic column...and the Word of the Year

Please read this...

Don’t know about you...but this “old guy” was not ready for temperatures to be in the 20s...

The winter-like cold in late November, accompanied by a nice, clear sky, meant that I had to start the first day of a new “work” week by making a rather significant layer of frost on my vehicle go away. Fortunately, the defrosters for the front and the back windshields in the car both worked...


While searching through the headlines on the internet earlier this week, I stumbled across a story about Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023.

Merriam-Webster, as you may know, publishes dictionaries. The old-fashioned kind. On paper. Old school. For old guys. Who don’t like the cold. Of course, Merriam-Webster also has its dictionary stuff online these days. Old guys, even ones who don’t like the cold, use the online dictionary, too.

Thanks to the internet, I learned that Merriam-Webster has been announcing a Word of the Year since all the way back in...2003. You know, back in the before times. 

To be honest with you, I hadn’t paid much attention to the Word of the Year for the past 20 years. I suppose as a person who tries to craft some sort of living by using words, it might be good to know about the Word of the Year. Oh, well...

I’m not sure why I paid attention this year. Maybe it was because yet another deadline was approaching. Once again, I asked Bob to do a column. He went and took another nap. Which is what cats do. 

Anyway, I saw a headline about the Word of the Year and followed up on the big news. There was a news release posted online about the special event.

The news release shared that “Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023 is authentic – the term for something we’re thinking about, writing about, aspiring to, and judging more than ever.” OK, I thought to myself. I must have missed something... I just haven’t thought all that much about the word authentic.

“A high-volume lookup most years, authentic saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media,” the news release continued.

“Authentic has a number of meanings including not false or imitation,’ a synonym of real and actual; and also ‘true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.’ Although clearly a desirable quality, authentic is hard to define and subject to debate – two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary.”

“Authentic is often connected to identity, whether national or personal: words frequently modified by authentic include cuisine and dish, but also self and voice. Celebrities like singers Lainey Wilson, Sam Smith, and especially Taylor Swift all made headlines in 2023 with statements about seeking their ‘authentic voice’ and ‘authentic self.’ Headlines like Three Ways To Tap Into Taylor Swift’s Authenticity And Build An Eras-Like Workplace associate this quality with pop-culture superpower.”

Of course. There had to be some sort of Taylor Swift connection. No word, though, about that authentic football guy who is her “boyfriend.”

“And with the rise of artificial intelligence – and its impact on deepfake videos, actors’ contracts, academic honesty, and a vast number of other topics – the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ has become increasingly blurred.”

Curiosity led yours truly to open up an authentic, genuine, old school dictionary printed on paper. Curiosity, on the other paw, did nothing for Bob... ‘cause we all know what happens to cats that get curious. Bob continued his nap, totally oblivious to the deadline pressure his person was facing.

My 1993 edition of The American Heritage College Dictionary also noted a musical connection to the word authentic: “a. Of or being a medieval mode having a range from its final tone to the octave above it. b. Of or being a cadence with the dominant chord immediately preceding the tonic chord.” Well, now. I have no idea what any of that means. Maybe I’ll look it up on the internet. Some day... 

Rest assured folks. This column is authentic. No artificial intelligence was involved in its creation. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t much intelligence involved at all. I’m a journalist, after authentic journalist. Well, in my own mind...

By the way...take a guess about the Word of the Year for 2020... Hint: one of the definitions for the 2020 Word of the Year, from the Merriam-Webster website: “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population..." Another hint...the Word of the Year for 2020 started with a "p"... Such a special memory...

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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