“Gaslighting” — well, that’s certainly quite a modern term, isn’t it? Merriam-Webster has chosen it as its 2022 word of the year, and that makes perfect sense to me. The term “gaslighting” doesn’t remind me of anything other than the events of this past year, and I’ve certainly never heard multiple Real Housewives use it in a way that suggests it reached its saturation point several years ago … No, babe, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Nobody was using “gaslighting” before Joe Biden was in office. Should we get you to a doctor? Honey, shh …
Scene. That was me gaslighting you; if it didn’t work that’s only because I’m pure of heart and incapable of lying. The quite useful term derives from the title of the 1944 film Gaslight, and it at one point meant manipulating someone into questioning their perception of reality to nefarious ends. Then in 2016, thanks in large part to a viral Teen Vogue essay about Donald Trump by writer Lauren Duca, it came to mean, “anything bad that anyone was doing.” (This behavior now falls under the term “psy-op.”)
Although 2016 was six years ago, and use of the term “gaslighting” was inescapable during America’s Trump era (and was in fact the subject of a 2020 The Chicks song called “Gaslighter”) Merriam-Webster somehow claims a 1,740-percent increase in lookups for the term in “the year of our Lord” (to use another phrase I’m glad has fallen out of use) 2022.
“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told the Associated Press on Monday. “It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year.” Uh-huh. I bet.
Other words that were frequently looked up this year according to Merriam-Webster include “codify,” “omicron,” “raid,” and “oligarch” and “queen consort.” Now those seem very “2022” to me. And I would also not be surprised if “is the queen dead yet” were one of the top words due to people typing it into the incorrect box, as well as “who is Pete Davidson dating.” Do not let Merriam-Webster trick you into thinking your perception of the use of the term gaslight is incorrect. It’s a psy-op. The real Merriam-Webster 2022 word of the year is probably pickleball.