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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > You got that good ol rizz

You got that good ol’ rizz?

Updated on: 10 December,2023 04:06 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Christalle Fernandes |

Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year is… funky, to say the least. What is this perplexing word, and what does it mean to have rizz?

You got that good ol’ rizz?

Nearly everyone we spoke to said SRK was the original rizzler, who had it all: looks, charm, and the ability to make you swoon, no matter how old you were. Pic/Getty Images

When Oxford Dictionary released its word of the year last week, it was unexpected, to say the least. One netizen commented, rather cheekily: Who’s rizzponsible for this? Many were hearing of the term for the first time and weren’t sure what to make of this “new Gen Z blasphemy”, as this writer’s colleague puts it. But rizz is more than just an abbreviation of the word charisma, as we find out.

“Rizz is a personality you’ve inherited from cool people around you or celebrities you admire,” says Shakshi Bhimani, a 24-year-old HR professional. “It’s about knowing how to use sentences and communicate in a certain tone and manner.”

“It’s funny that rizz is the word of the year, because if you go by the dictionary definition, it is not really a word,” says Ria Chopra, 24, a writer well-versed in pop culture and internet trends. “Rizz is just one of those words that got popularised online, as slang, and it took off on Twitter and TikTok first, before making its way to common parlance. The etymology is that it’s a short form of charisma—shortened to rizz because it’s catchier.”

Ria Chopra and Shakshi BhimaniRia Chopra and Shakshi Bhimani

So, what is rizz? Just plain ol’ charisma, a suave personality, and the ability to be flirty and charming. It emerged out of the fandom culture, where fans label their favourite actors or superstars as rizzlers. Chopra points out to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh, whom she terms as a “rizz god”: “A lot of idols whom we look up to in popular culture have rizz. Shah Rukh Khan, for example, is THE Indian example of rizz.. He’s so charming and witty in his interviews and in the way he speaks to the interviewer.” Bhimani feels that Hrithik Roshan fits the personality type of a rizzler, as well as 2000’s chocolate-boy Shahid Kapoor. None of them feel that any younger celebrity or influencer has rizz.

Interestingly, the language experts at Oxford found out that the popularity of the word peaked in June 2023, after an interview of Tom Holland went viral. (Other contenders were prompt, Swiftie, and situationship). In the interview, Holland was asked about his rizz, to which he replied, “I have no rizz whatsoever, I have limited rizz.” Chopra says his lack of rizz is compensated by the fact that he was able to “bag” a stunning woman like Zendaya, much the same way that Pete Davidson dated a string of beautiful women like Ariana Grande, Kaia Gerber, and Kim Kardarshian.

Notice how the examples given above have all referred to men with rizz. That’s because rizz is, in some ways, the male equivalent of being a “baddie” or the classic “It-girl”. “Remember those interviews of Aishwarya Rai on Oprah Winfrey’s and David Letterman’s shows in the 90s? Undeniable rizz,” Chopra says. Bhimani, on the other hand, feels that women don’t need rizz to “get the guy”. “Women usually have to be themselves, and guys come flocking. They’re also picky in terms of who they like, which is why men feel the need to bolster their personality.” 

Rishabh Sadasivan, Shahzeen Shivdasani and Ankit VengurlekarRishabh Sadasivan, Shahzeen Shivdasani and Ankit Vengurlekar

This is especially true in the world of dating and relationships. Here, having the ability to play with words is of paramount importance, especially on dating apps, says Shahzeen Shivdasani, a relationship expert. “People are so sick of ‘hey, how are you’ conversations, that breaking the ice with your words alone matters.” She says that in younger, Gen Z relationships, rizz matters because it’s what draws 20-somethings in: “Rizzlers are interesting because they have a lot of sex appeal that draws you in, while older people look at stability and maturity.”

According to Ankit Vengurlekar, a corporate trainer and personality coach, the term manifests differently in Indian and Western contexts. In the West, it’s used mostly in the dating and relationships context, while closer home, it’s about self-confidence. Vengurlekar who’s coached hundreds of individuals, says that India is a country of “extremely underconfident, self-doubting individuals,” and so, anyone with a good dose of confidence and self-esteem automatically is perceived as charismatic. “Everyone has that one avant-garde aunt or uncle who didn’t really follow the rules when it came to career or marriage, and everyone secretly looks up to them.” That, in a way, is the Indian rizz, in a society like ours overridden with the desire to follow rules, be subservient, and blend in. 

“Fundamentally, whether it is in social settings, at the workplace, in friendship, or dating, the sexiest thing about a person is their self-confidence. That just opens up doors like nothing else,” he adds. Rizz privileges, then, do exist, and are more based on one’s social skills and projection of confidence. At the end of the day, having rizz means you have the ability to charm your way into a friendship, relationship, or even a job. 

Rishabh Sadasivan, a fashion student, says he has “performance rizz”. “I perform with a dance group, Axiom, and that’s a personality I use onstage,” the 20-year-old says. For him, it’s not about looks, but speaking skills that can get you what you want. 

Can rizz, then, be acquired? Yes and no. “There’s no substitute for knowledge. Unless you’re Orry, in which case you’re social in a different way,” Vengurlekar quips. “The minute you show up among a group of people and you know more than them, you start to evaluate yourself differently.” Knowledge of the world, paired with performative speaking, and presenting your physical personality well, he explains, is the way to build up a new, rizzier version of yourself. 

The other, more intrinsic aspects, however, may be hard to emulate. It’s possible to have rizz and not be aware of it, but not ape it. Bhimani, who says she doesn’t have rizz, says it’s about one’s personality expressed in a very organic way. While Sadasivan has a more nuanced take: he feels that if over-exaggerated, it becomes like a “pick-me” situation. “People try to rizz it but you can see they’re pretending.” When it comes to rizz, faking it does not make it.

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