Have a cup of salty brew for Latvia's word and non-word of 2023

For the 21st time, Riga Latvian Society's Latvian Language Advancement Group along with the Latvian Writers' Union has announced the 'word', 'non-word', 'winged phrase', and 'sequence of words' of the year 2023, the campaign's promoters said January 30.

Word of the year

Latvian awards for the 'word of the year' often include neologisms developed as a result of technology advancement or current events, for example, in 2020 and 2021, the word of the year was pandemic-related, while in 2022, it related to the Russian war in Ukraine. This year's word is also somewhat related to freeing the Latvian cultural space from Russian influence, as the word atdēvēt ('re-rename') has been chosen. This word is supposed to mean returning a certain object to its original or most appropriate name. Perhaps renaming streets to their original non-Soviet-time names, as has been happening throughout Latvia, could be used as an example.

For the subcategory of the word of the year – 'new word of the year' – sāļvira has been chosen as the winner. Sāļvira, meaning literally 'salty brew', is proposed to replace the Russian solyanka, the name of a popular (and rather salty) soup.

The finalists this year were also 'atkrieviskot' (to 'de-Russianize'), 'trakdancis' ('crazy dance' – moshpit), 'ēnu kabinets' (shadow cabinet – an ironic remark on the Cabinet of Ministers), and others.

Non-word of the year

The "non-word of the year" category, which awards the most awkward, clumsy, or inaccurate word, discussed several direct borrowings and calques.

The winner of the non-word category was 'tolerēt', (to tolerate) which is also a direct rendering from the international word. Latvian has its own vocabulary to express the notion, such as panest, paciest, izturēt, pieļaut, samierināties.

Winged phrase of the year

The "winged phrases" are expressions that have been heard in public and stuck in people's minds in one way or another. The winged phrases of 2023 included an entry on the social network X "Kāpēc tāda vilcināšanās?" (Why such hesitation?) regarding the new train delays and playing with the word roots of vilcināšanās (hesitation) and vilciens (train). Another "winged phrase" was Prime Minister Evika Siliņa's remark that "the good news is that not everyone needs a passport in Latvia", in context of the passport issuance fee increase.

The winner of the category was general practitioner Ainis Dzalbs' quote: "Primary healthcare can no longer be reformed, it should be resuscitated."

Sequence of Words of the year

The "sequence of words" of the year is also a phrase that has been heard or seen in public, but all one seems to think after hearing or reading it, is "those were certainly all words". The phrases of 2023 included a market expert's statement that "It's not that in Latvia everything is more expensive, it's just that there is a bigger number of cheaper goods in Lithuania", as well as the Education Minister's "To solve violence in schools, a wellbeing device is definitely needed as monitoring in schools".

The winner of this category was news outlet Latvijas Avīze's ambiguous headline "Dakteri žņaudza un sita" (Doctor strangled and beat) which, out of context, can well be interpreted both as violence against a doctor or a case of particularly violent doctors.


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