NEW YORK – “Gaslighting” – mind manipulation, grossly misleading, downright misleading – is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.
Searches for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740% in 2022 over the prior year. But something else happened. There was not a single event that generated significant spikes in curiosity, as is often the case with the chosen word of the year.
Gaslighting was widespread.
“It’s a word that has risen so rapidly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually surprised me and a lot of us,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s managing editor, said in an exclusive interview. with The Associated Press before Monday’s opening.
“It was a frequently searched word every day of the year,” he said.
Merriam-Webster’s main definition of gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that “causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and generally leads to confusion.” , loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s own emotional or mental stability, and dependence on the perpetrator”.
Gaslighting is an egregious tool often used by relationship abusers, and by politicians and other news creators. It can occur between romantic partners, within a larger family unit, and among friends. It may be a corporate tactic or a way to mislead the public. There is also “medical gaslighting,” when a health professional dismisses a patient’s symptoms or illness as “all in their head.”
Despite its relatively recent prominence, including “Gaslighter,” The Chicks’ 2020 album with the poignantly angry title single, the word was brought to life more than 80 years ago with “Gas Light,” a 1938 work by Patrick Hamilton.
It spawned two film adaptations in the 1940s. One, George Cukor’s “Gaslight” in 1944, starring Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist and Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton. The two marry after a whirlwind romance and Gregory turns out to be a champion gaslighter. Among other instances, he insists that his complaints about the constant dimming of the gaslights in his London home are the product of his troubled mind. he was not
Angela Lansbury’s death in October generated some interest in searches for the word, Sokolowski said. She played Nancy Oliver, a young servant hired by Gregory and told not to bother his “very nervous” wife of hers.
The term gaslighting was later used by mental health professionals to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships.
“There is this implication of intentional deception,” Sokolowski said. “And once you’re aware of that deception, it’s not just a straight lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a bit more of a torturous quality to it. He possibly has an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.”
Merriam-Webster, which records 100 million page views a month on its site, chooses its word of the year based solely on data. Sokolowski and his team eliminated the most frequently searched evergreen words to assess which word received a significant increase over the past year.
They don’t look at why people search for words, which can be anything from quick spelling and definition checks to some sort of attempt at inspiration or motivation. Some of the crowds searching for “gaslighting” this year may have wanted to know, simply, if it’s one or two words, or if it’s hyphenated.
“Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 search words on merriam-webster.com to earn word of the year status. Last year’s choice was “vaccine.” Rounding out this year’s Top 10 are:
— “Oligarch”, fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
— “Omicron”, the persistent variant of Covid-19 and the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
— “Codify,” such as making abortion rights federal law.
— “Queen consort”, as the wife of King Carlos, Camila, is recently known.
— “Raid,” as in the search for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
– “Aware”, with searches triggered by Google that can the engineer who claimed that a new artificial intelligence system had become sentient.
— “Cancel crop”.
— “LGBTQIA,” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual, aromatic, or agender.
— “Loamy”, which many Wordle users tried in August, although the correct word that day was “clown”.